Wildlife Rescue and Ambulance Service in Trent Park needs to raise £10,000 per month to survive, reports James Cracknell
An urgent appeal for money has been made by a wildlife rescue charity forced to close to visitors during the ongoing public health crisis.
Wildlife Rescue and Ambulance Service (WRAS) is based at Trent Park in Cockfosters, where its animal sanctuary is usually open to visitors – the charity’s main source of income.
However, government lockdown restrictions mean no visitors have been allowed for the last three weeks, putting at risk the charity’s ongoing work to help injured animals. It cares for all sorts of wildlife, including birds, hedgehogs, deer, squirrels and foxes.
Barry Smitherman set up WRAS with his wife June in 1985 and told the Dispatch: “We’ve had a lot of bad luck because the storms in February meant we lost a lot of money from visitors then as well. Now we are closed completely.
“Having visitors and serving tea and coffee is our main source of income, apart from donations.
“But we are still caring for animals and we have still got all these overheads. We have got six staff. We need £10,000 every month to keep going.
“We are using our reserves but there is only enough to last until the end of May.”
This week the government announced a £750million funding package for charities across the UK, but this is said to fall far short of what is needed to fill the current funding gaps for many charities, and it’s not clear how quickly money will be made available. Understandably, charities providing frontline services amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic will be prioritised.
Barry said: “We have applied to the council for a grant, but a lot of grants are for people paying business rates – we don’t pay them. The government help hasn’t been released yet. I haven’t seen any money available for animal charities.
“If we can open the visitor centre again by the end of May we could be alright, but we will need money in the bank before then to know we are safe.
“We still need to feed the animals and pay the staff, although we are limiting rescues at the moment – we are only taking in animals we can treat within a few weeks. We have had to turn away fox cubs because they need six months of care.
“We can’t lay off or furlough our staff because then the animals won’t be looked after.”
As well as appeals for money, the charity is accepting donations of food – its regular supplies are dog food tins and fresh vegetables.