Sandwich Wildlife Park will sadly not be re-opening.
Please feel free to read the full press release below, however be assured that following the closure of Sandwich Wildlife Park that we want to make the following points:
- Wingham Wildlife Park is not affected by this closure and is safe.
- All of the animals at Sandwich Wildlife Park are safe and will be re homed at Wingham Wildlife Park or other homes.
- We will continue to have staff working at Sandwich Wildlife Park until the very last animal has found a new home.
- All of the staff at both parks are also safe, with no redundancies as a result of this decision.
- This has not been an easy decision to make and we hope that you all know us well enough to know that we have made this decision with the best interests of all of the animals and staff at both sites.
We know that for many of you there will be questions about what is going to happen with tickets and experiences which you have purchased. As we mentioned in the press release above, Sandwich Wildlife Park is owned by Wingham Wildlife Park, and the company is still active. As cash flow to maintain and develop both sites is the reason why this difficult decision was made we want to avoid, where possible, giving refunds for experiences and tickets at Sandwich Wildlife Park, and as such would like to always make our initial offer to change your ticket for the same experience at Wingham Wildlife Park where we offer them, or for credit at Wingham Wildlife Park to spend on tickets, food, towards another experience etc.
If you would not like to do this please get in touch with us to discuss your options further during this difficult time, however please note that we are working with a very limited team at the moment and as such a response may take a little longer than usual.
Sandwich Wildlife Park is a small zoological park near Sandwich in Kent, and is owned and operated by Wingham Wildlife Park, which is just under 6 miles away. The park had been purchased as a sister site to Wingham Wildlife Park in 2017 at which point it needed a lot of work to make it possible for animals to live at the site. This included works such as renewing the tropical building, concreting around bases of large enclosure fences, replacing electrical fittings and so much more. That work continues to this day and there is still a lot of work which needs to go into the site to allow the whole site to be used.
Due to COVID restrictions the site at Sandwich Wildlife Park has been closed since 4th November 2020, and even though Wingham Wildlife Park was able to briefly open around the Christmas period in tier 4, Sandwich was unable to follow suit, as much of it is indoors with these areas having had to remain closed during that time.
Due to COVID restrictions both sites were only able to open briefly in 2020 compared to a normal season which is a difficult situation for any business, however when your bills continue to mount when you are closed as you cannot furlough all your staff and still need to heat, clean and feed all of your animals it is even more difficult. This is even more so the case if that business runs 2 separate sites. Both Wingham Wildlife Park and Sandwich Wildlife Park are owned by the same company which means that the reserves which are in place to operate both sites and had been saved the previous year to allow large scale refurbishment work in Wingham, also meant that neither site would be able to access the zoo fund by the government, which for most zoos in the country is simply unobtainable until the company is very close to closure.
Before we explain any further, Tony Binskin, the managing director of the parks wants to reassure the public about Wingham Wildlife Park and the animals at Sandwich Wildlife Park:
“We want to be very clear that even as COVID restrictions continue, Wingham Wildlife Park is in a position where we are able to continue to look after our animals, maintain the park and continue the work which we have been carrying out at the park. We are very lucky to have a strong team at both sites who can carry out most of our maintenance and growth works in house. This has meant that we have been able to continue working during the lockdown and funds which were earned during the year meant that we were still also able to honor any outside works contracts which we had planned or agreed.
Wingham Wildlife Park is completely safe, and visitors and fans of the parks can rest assured that we are not going anywhere – and the same can be said for all the animals at Sandwich Wildlife Park as we have several strategies in place to ensure that they all stay safe and healthy. One thing which we have always said even in the first lockdown was that no animals would need to be put to sleep while we are closed as a result of COVID restrictions – and that statement remains just as true today!
Firstly, any animals which can be moved to Wingham Wildlife Park will be moved there.
Secondly, any animal which we cannot move to Wingham will be found new homes.
Thirdly, no matter how long it takes to move the animals to new homes, we will continue to staff Sandwich Wildlife Park until the last animal has been moved off the site.
This has been one of the most difficult decisions which we have ever had to make, and we have not taken it lightly. Every single animal from the ants right through to the crocodiles is being considered very carefully. This is not the end of our story, it’s just us closing a chapter which we can just sadly no longer continue to support permanently.”
The decision about Sandwich Wildlife Park has been made at this time to ensure that the park is not left in a situation where it faces sudden closure a couple of weeks in advance or jeopardizes both parks in the long term. As had been explained by Mr. Binskin above, the site will continue to be supported by Wingham Wildlife Park as long as animals remain there.
Mr. Binskin continued by adding:
“We have enough reserves to stop all work at both sites and continue to scrape both parks along without any progress being made, however both parks have areas which need to be developed and maintained to function not only as places which care for animals but also for the public to learn about animals or to support conservation, and sadly the past years’ worth of on and off COVID restrictions and closures have meant that we are simply not in a position to be able to continue to maintain both sites.
Both as a business and personal decision, this has been an incredibly difficult one for the whole management team to make and we just hope that the public know us well enough to know that it has been a decision made for the wellbeing of the animals and that everyone will continue to be cared for.”
Homes have already started being found for many of the animals and people will see individuals such as the Arctic wolves, chameleons, ants and bushbabies move to Wingham Wildlife Park, although the wolf move had already been organised some time before this decision had been made.
Markus Wilder the curator at both sites added:
“We made a conscious decision early enough to ensure that we have the time and resources to find these homes and work with other institutions for any animals which perhaps need a little more specialised care or require special permits and licenses to move. There is no doubt that this process is going to take some time, and we have taken this into account with our strategy for moving forward. I would like to reiterate what Mr. Binskin has said, which is that Wingham Wildlife Park and the animals at both sites are totally safe.
Not only do we want to, but we are also required as part of our license to support education, research and conservation. In our effort to continue to do this with projects such as our support of the World Land Trust or native species with our new invertebrate education and conservation exhibit at Wingham Wildlife Park, we are just not in a position to be able to support this level of education and conservation activity at both sites equally.”
As well as the animals being safe both now and, in the future, Wingham Wildlife Park has also confirmed that the staff who work at the Sandwich site (who have already all been made aware of the closure) will be moving their expertise and experience in all roles which the park fills to Wingham Wildlife Park and that in this difficult time no one is being put at risk of redundancy as a result of this decision.
Mr Binskin and his wife Jackie Binskin with whom both parks were purchased finished by saying:
“Had it not been as a result of the constant restrictions and uncertainty due to COVID over the past year we might have been in a different situation but as much as no one wants to give up on a project it is going to be a much better situation if we can concentrate 100% of our resources, expertise, time and focus on a single site to make Wingham Wildlife Park the best park it possibly can be for the animals, for conservation, for schools and for our visitors.
Just like the rest of the country COVID won’t bring us down, and we want to thank all of our supporters for helping to get us to this point and we hope to see everyone very soon at Wingham Wildlife Park once we can re-open. For zoos all over the country, that time can’t come soon enough.