The Wildheart Animal Sanctuary will celebrate its 45th birthday later this year with the pledge “Together We Roar”.
The Sandown sanctuary, formerly The Isle of Wight Zoo, was renamed in April to give it a new identity which reflects a continued focus on rescued and threatened species and to provide them with a safe, forever home.
It has faced the most challenging year in its history and, without the special, generous spirit of Isle of Wight residents, the business would not be operating today.
Chief Operating Officer, Lawrence Bates, explained: “We have all been humbled by the response which gives us the heart and the strength to come back stronger, better and more exciting than ever before – it has given us hope for our own future and reinforced our belief that the Island will emerge greater than ever before.
“In those dark early days, we set up a food drop off hut outside our site. We did not have a clue what to expect. We knew that both the community and other businesses were suffering too, but we were desperate to ensure the welfare of our animals was not compromised and had nothing to lose.
“We asked the Island residents and businesses for help and the Island roared back.
“Since then, that little hut alone has seen thousands of pounds worth of food donated by Isle of Wight residents and we have been humbled by the response.
“More car loads of food, everything from pak choi to radishes and corn on the cob to blueberries, continues to arrive every week from the food drop-off bin outside Tesco in Ryde.
“Local schools answered our call for help too, with children running a harvest festival for the sanctuary in the autumn providing specific food boxes for our animal’s needs. In addition to that, we had people donating money, buying up memberships that were back-dated to when we opened and adopting animals.
“Businesses offered their services, expertise and even good old-fashioned sound and solid advice which you can never put a price on. We have been left stunned and, most important of all, our rescued animals have remained well-fed and well-cared for.
“If the Covid pandemic has highlighted one thing it is the global and local imbalances in nature that pose a threat to us all.
“It is a fragile world in which we live. At the sanctuary, we know we have an important role to play in shining a light on the vulnerability of the natural world and inspiring our community and visitors to take action to protect it.”
The sanctuary has lined up a program of events over the next few months with the return of its popular Twilight Nights and Big Cat Breakfasts. Its latest arrival is a family of Eurasian lynx who were in desperate need of a new home.
It is also building a new home for the lemurs and is creating a wild walk through the sanctuary containing a sensory garden and micro-habitats for native flora and fauna to thrive.
Lawrence added: “It is just incredible to think about the journey we have been on since the family of Charlotte Corney acquired the old Sandown Zoo in the late ‘70s and set about creating a wildlife park specialising in large cats.
“That passion, dedication and ambition runs through everything we do today. We intend to celebrate our birthday in style and in doing so can hopefully say a huge thank you to the very special community here on the Island.
“We know the sanctuary; our supporters and the wider Isle of Wight community will be at the frontline of the protection of endangered animals and the move to treat all animals with compassion.
“Because thanks to our experience of Covid and lockdown here on the Isle of Wight, we know that we are all much stronger together. Together We Roar.”