A ZOO has claimed it is facing its toughest challenge in its history as it is forced to close temporarily.

Marwell Zoo near Winchester has now shut due to the second national lockdown.

As a result, the funds which the organisation would normally receive have dried up but the costs of running and maintaining the zoo still remain.

James Cretney, Chief Executive of Marwell Wildlife, the charity that runs the zoo has now spoken out about the challenge the charity is facing.

He said: “The coronavirus crisis has significantly impacted our charity zoo and though we are undoubtedly fortunate to have opened for four months, we are now facing the toughest challenge in our nearly 50 year history.

“When we are closed our daily costs remain incredibly high as the responsibility of looking after our animals and their environments to the highest standards does not change.

“We have made use of measures to help us through the short term financial impacts of this crisis, such as the Government’s loan scheme, a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan (CBIL) and the furlough scheme, however, the challenge ahead is significant.”

Marwell is home to more than 140 species and would normally welcome 500,000 guests each year to the 140 acre site.

A JustGiving fundraising page has now been set up to support the zoo through the tough period and through this it has managed to raise over £65k.

James added: “We have been overwhelmed by the generosity and unwavering support of our community during these unsettling times.

“We are confident we can emerge from this crisis in a strong position so that we can secure the joy of visiting our much-loved charity zoo for generations to come.”