Forget eggs this Easter, adopt a donkey

ADOPTING a local lemur may sound like an unconventional Easter present but this week the Ham&High can exclusively announce a scheme that may see hundreds of families doing just that over the holiday period.

Golders Hill zoo has announced that five of its most adorable, people friendly animals will be available for the public to adopt in a new scheme that allows people to get more involved with the zoo and the animals – and makes some money to ease Hampstead Heath’s squeezed finances.

Animal-lovers will be able to adopt five different animals in the initial phases of the sponsorship plan ranging from a white-faced whistling duck for �20 a year, to the much loved resident donkey, Calypso, for �50.

Ring tailed lemurs and ring tailed coatis will both cost �50 for a year’s sponsorship that will go towards their upkeep, while a laughing kookaburra, immortalized as “king of the bush” in the famous Australian nursery rhyme will cost �30 a year to adopt.

The City of London, which runs the zoo, is encouraging people to commit to long term ‘adoptions’ of the animals so that their futures at the zoo will be secure and more animal friends can be brought in to join them.

In return for the fees adopters will receive a photograph of and a fact sheet about their animal. Each new adoptive parent will also be put into a draw for a behind-the-scenes visit into the animal enclosures with the zoo keepers.

Michael Welbank, Chairman of the Hampstead Heath Management Committee, said the zoo has been transformed over recent years into a more usable, educational space with a wider range of animals – and he has been overwhelmed by comments from the general public encouraging him to try to make more money out of projects like this for the Heath.

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He said: “Lots of people have been telling me that it is much better to get income generation going on the Heath in areas where people are happy to help and support it because that stops reduction in other areas such as staffing and maintenance.

“We have been gently restocking the animals at the zoo and making it more usable, friendly and allowing the public greater interaction with the animals. This will be another step in that direction.”

Mr Welbank also said that the corporation had plans to create a farm section of the zoo with farmyard animals for children to pet.

The launch of the scheme coincided with the first ‘Love your Zoo’ day of 2011 which features free ‘wild and wacky zoo mobile’ drop-in workshops, an interactive scavenger and a ‘creature spotters’ quiz.

Ross Hayes, zookeeper at the Golders Hill zoo said he was very excited about the project as it was inspired by requests from zoo visitors to get more involved. He said: “It is normally the cute ones that people want to adopt – which is why we’ve got a top five of the cool funky ones and well see how it goes from there.

“If it is a success then maybe people can start adopting some of the less obvious stuff.”