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Secret Valley goes Nationwide as it continues fight to survive

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Ann O’Connor with one of the pigs living at Secret Valley Wildlife Park

Ann O’Connor with one of the pigs living at Secret Valley Wildlife Park

Ann O’Connor with one of the pigs living at Secret Valley Wildlife Park

Secret Valley Wildlife Park (SVWP) has appeared on RTÉ's Nationwide as it continues its campaign to remain open following the coronavirus pandemic.

Home to 35 species of wild animals, including rescue animals from the pet trade and research laboratories, owner of SVWP Ann O'Connor has made a desperate call for public support to maintain its conservation facility.

'Secret Valley has no Government funding, and despite fundraising efforts through animal sponsorships and pre-selling tickets, we urgently need support to care for the animals and carry out essential enclosure maintenance and repairs,' Ann said.

The park has over 100 animals to feed and care for daily, ranging from domestic animals to llamas and alpacas, meerkats and otters.

Closed for over three months due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 14-acre wildlife park, which relied on income from entrance fees, school tours and education workshops, has now run out of funds.

Even though they have reopened, they still need to make up the shortfall in income from March to July.

Ann has launched an emergency appeal on GoFundMe and now has launched a crowdfunding campaign with perks for contributors in order to buy animal feed and maintain the habitats.

Since it opened 14 years ago, Secret Valley Wildlife Park has worked with a European exotic animal rescue organisation to provide a permanent home for exploited and neglected exotic animals.

The facility currently has four species of rescued primates, including capuchin monkeys and cotton-top tamarins, rescued from the pet trade. A recent addition is four Rhesus Macaques which were saved from a Dutch Laboratory. Having been used for neurological research, it is hoped Bassie, Adriaan, Puyi and Tchang can live out the rest of their lives in peace at Secret Valley.

The Wexford wildlife facility is an award-winning tourist attraction where the animal keepers work tirelessly on conservation and school educational programmes, according to Ann, who says that having to close the gates for good would be heart-breaking for everyone concerned.

'Secret Valley is a weather dependent seasonal attraction, where we take in 80 per cent of our income from March until the end of August. It costs over €100,000 to run for a year and, while we are open again since June 29, we will still at best have only half the visitors, and the same costs, with the restrictions that are in place.'

To date, almost €6,000 of the wildlife park's €50,000 fundraising target has been achieved, and people are asked to contribute whatever they can to help save the Wexford wildlife sanctuary. Contributions can be made on www.indiegogo.com/projects/save-secret-valley-wildlife-park#/

People who contribute to the park's fundraising efforts can avail of perks such as a discounted annual family pass for €80 instead of €137.

'Over the past 14 years, Secret Valley Wildlife Park has educated visitors on the plight of animals in the wild, and some in captivity, and the conservation and rescue efforts that go on. Ironically, we now need to protect our rescued animals more than ever, and keep them in our care,' Ann said of the fundraising appeal.

Opened initially as an adventure farm in 2007, Secret Valley invested and expanded to a wildlife park in 2012, working hard to meet the high standards required for a zoo licence. The facility was accepted as full members of BIAZA (British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums) in 2018.

TV features over the years, including 'Higher Ground', The Holiday Show, Nick Junior, CBeebies and the Brennan brothers 'At your Service' programme have encouraged thousands of visitors to the scenic park.

Last Friday's episode of Nationwide is now available to view on the RTÉ Player.

Gorey Guardian