Zoo fun day creates animal magic for tenants

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Hundreds of tenants and their families took a walk on the wild side at a zoo thanks to the generosity of a housing association.

Cartrefi Conwy came up trumps with support after hearing that the Welsh Mountain Zoo in Colwyn Bay was struggling for survival during the pandemic.

Their support meant more than 500 tickets were provided to tenants and other local people for the fun day out at the popular tourist attraction that’s home to 140 different species, including big cats, primates, birds, reptiles and amphibians.

Cartrefi Conwy joined forces with community action group Together for Colwyn Bay and the zoo to organise the event.

But things were looking bleak for the zoo at the height of the Covid-19 restrictions when visitors were not allowed to come, cutting off the zoo’s income.

Charlotte Dykes, the zoo’s marketing manager, said: “The zoo charity’s running costs whilst we were closed were more than £100,000 a month.

“Combine that with lost income whilst we were closed, and the crisis we found ourselves in was the worst the zoo has ever faced in its 58-year history.”

After hearing about the zoo’s problems from residents’ action group Together for Colwyn Bay, members of the community team at Cartrefi Conwy, which has more than 4,000 homes, decided they wanted to help.

Cartrefi Conwy managing director Katie Clubb said: “We all know it’s been a really tough time for lots of local businesses.

“As part of our  commitment to delivering social value at Cartrefi Conwy, we are keen to support local businesses recovering following the pandemic and we are really proud to be supporting the zoo in this way”

“Some people may assume that being a social landlord is just about providing housing. We do that, but for us, supporting the local community and delivering social value is at the heart of what we do.

“Because of Covid we haven’t been able to have our usual community engagement events with our tenants so this was great opportunity to meet and speak with our tenants and partner with the zoo to support an iconic local institution at the same time.”

Along with the support from Cartrefi Conwy, the zoo has welcomed donations from other local groups and organisations.

“We’ve had a lot of community support and we are very appreciative,” said Charlotte. “Local residents have been organising food donations and collections during the tough times and now the zoo is open again and busier than ever, we wanted to organise a community day to thank everyone.”

Once again, Cartrefi Conwy stepped up along with Together for Colwyn Bay, this time helping to organise a weekend to remember for its tenants and other local residents.

“We knew the zoo wanted to open its doors to the community that helped them, so we got together with a few other organisations with similar aims to create a day out at the zoo with added extras,” said Katie.

The result was a fun-packed programme of live music, picnics, games and treasure hunts on the main lawn at the zoo.

Cartrefi Conwy bought hundreds of tickets to the zoo for its tenants – and there were other discounted offers provided by the Zoo for local families.

“The Welsh Mountain Zoo is such a local asset, so many of us have visited it over the years that it’s part of our identity,” said Together Colwyn Bay community development officer Vin Murtagh.

“There has been huge enthusiasm for the community weekend at the zoo and it’s all about celebrating what we have.”

According to Charlotte Dykes, the zoo was bouncing back after the difficulties of lockdown.

“With more people staying home and taking staycations, our footfall is right back to pre-pandemic numbers,” she said.

“It’s great to see so many families here enjoying themselves.”

Among those enjoying the sunshine was 10-year-old Jasmine Abdel Khalek and her four-year-old brother Omar, together with mum Emma and dad Hany, from Kinmel Bay.

Jasmine was thrilled when she won the organised treasure hunt. “I’m hoping I get a prize”, she said.

Mum Emma added: “I think it’s been a great day. The children love being outdoors, they’ve been running wild and having fun.

“I’m really pleased to see so many people here enjoying themselves. I remember coming here as a child and it would have been such a shame if it had to close.”

Katie Clubb, who was attending with her three-year-old son, Charlie, agreed. “All families, our tenants included, were stuck indoors for so long during lockdown,” she said.

“Some very young children have just not been able to get out and enjoy this kind of attraction until recently and it’s fantastic to see them outside, racing around and laughing.

“I know Charlie has really loved seeing the cheeky monkeys up close”.

And Katie hopes there will be a lasting legacy to the weekend.

“One of our tenants here today, a mother with a young daughter, told me she was so impressed with the event and the zoo, her daughter was now planning to work here as a volunteer. That’s a great outcome for the zoo and us.”