It has been the most challenging and uncertain year our generation has known. It is more important than ever to reflect on the positives this year has given us and look forward to a new year with new opportunities.
Anna Tank, our PR Officer interviews Lynn Whitnall, our CEO of Paradise Wildlife Park and Trustee of The Big Cat Sanctuary to share her thoughts on the past year:
What has 2020 meant for Paradise Wildlife Park?
“It has been a very surreal year. However, we have been exceptionally positive all the way through it so we have tried to keep upbeat for our teams across both Paradise and The Big Cat Sanctuary, but also for our visitors and members. They have given us incredible support through 2020.”
What has been the highlight for you in 2020?
“That’s a great question! Our teams, especially those who have been on furlough, have been exceptional. Majority of our work team have all returned back to work and have been working incredibly hard. I am also so pleased that our animals have remained happy and healthy, despite the pandemic. I am also exceptionally proud of my sons Aaron, Tyler and Cameron who achieved their One Zoo Three show with CBBC this year. It has shown the amazing work we do not only in the UK but around the world too. Our Land of the Tigers launch at Paradise was also a huge highlight for me, as well as opening the pool in the habitat with the beautiful carp fish in it. Of course, we also were able to open the Jaguar Breeding Centre at The Big Cat Sanctuary. The Royal Highness Princess Eugenie, the Sanctuary’s patron actually opened up the Jaguar Breeding Centre, which was again a very proud moment.”
What has the pandemic and 2020 taught you professionally and personally?
“Keeping positive is key. I could not have achieved what we have this year and got through it without my amazing team of Trustees, Directors, cleaners, maintenance, services, gardens, animal park team, everyone that helped and contributed to the effort across both parks. Our volunteers too have been absolute gold dust. They came in throughout the first lockdown and they were scrubbing, cleaning, painting, helping across every single section. They were absolute stars and cannot thank them enough.
There have been many sleepless nights worrying about the future of the park. However, I am so grateful for the furlough scheme that has supported our charites throughout. It has been an emotional roller coaster, but I think I have been able to stay calm. The newsletters in particular became very important to me as I was able to communicate more directly with the teams.”
What will you be doing for Christmas Day this year?
“Every Christmas Day we come in early in the morning and make everyone who is working a cooked breakfast at 10:30. Once that is finished, we clear up and the family comes together for a Christmas afternoon. However, this year it will be slightly different. The whole Whitnall family will go down to the animal park early and help our keepers look after the animals and do a cooked breakfast. We were originally planning on going to a local restaurant for Christmas dinner. However, as we enter tier 3, they have kindly offered to do a takeaway Christmas dinner for us instead. Not as we expected but we will be safe and together as a family and that is what counts.”
What are you looking forward to in 2021?
“We have so many things to look forward to in 2021. For Paradise, our jaguars will be coming back from their holiday at The Big Cat Sanctuary to their new habitat. We will also be bringing in our new sun bears and binturongs as well, as long as everything goes to plan! This will be a huge achievement for the park next year. At The Big Cat Sanctuary, we will be introducing new infrastructure to allow smoother running for the keepers and everyone on site. We have already started building the ARC, or the Animal Research Centre, which we are hoping to name after a very dear friend to us and both parks. Even after this, we are hoping to be building seven small cat habitats too! So, lots are hopefully happening at both parks, I just hope it can all go to plan!”
Is there anything you would like to say to our supporters?
“I would like to thank all members and supporters at both parks for sticking with us through the most challenging year we have had to face. Thank-you for staying engaged with us and for your fabulous donations. Your gifts from our Amazon Wish Lists have also been incredible for keeping our animals happy and I cannot thank you all enough. From not just myself but all the Trustees, Directors and teams at both Paradise, ZSH and The Big Cat Sanctuary, want to say a huge thank-you to all our wonderful supporters and we hope you have a lovely Christmas.”
We are so excited to see what a fresh year brings to both Paradise Wildlife Park and The Big Cat Sanctuary. Please do come and see us in the new year if it is safe to do so. We always do our best to keep all our visitors safe on site. Check out our website to book your tickets.