An animal education and therapy centre in Croydon is appealing to the community to help it survive, after being forced to close due to lockdown restrictions.
The ARC Centre based at Greenvale Primary School, Selsdon, announced the cancellation of most classes and started fundraising on 6 January to cover the cost of heating and veterinary bills.
Without regular visitors, the animals have suffered a range of mental health issues according to director Louise Wilkinson.
Wilkinson said: “Our blue-fronted amazon parrot Frodo was so upset in the first lockdown that people weren’t coming to see her and say hello that she pulled out all her feathers.
“The other animal that has had issues is our skunk Bruce. He was somebody’s pet and we got given him at nine months old because he was struggling really badly with mental health in his home environment.
“We managed to improve his mental health for the better and he was a lot happier, running around like a normal skunk.
“Now that people aren’t here again we’ve noticed that he’s retreating back into himself a little bit more.
“We’re trying to do as much work as we possibly can with him to remind him that it’s okay that people aren’t there but he’s definitely missing having company.”
More than £1000 has been raised on Crowdfunder but Wilkinson added that another £15,000 is needed to cover the payroll over the next few months, as staff are not currently eligible for furlough due to a complication with HMRC.
Mum of two Claire Lacovara from Croydon said her daughters Florence, 10, and Violet, 7, are regulars at the animal centre and have missed not being able to visit.
Lacovara explained: “It’s their happy place, they adore going there, it’s the highlight of their week.
“They’re sad about not going, they miss it, they see all the animals as their pets.
“They’ve been going for two and a half years and they learn a lot of animal husbandry, it gives them confidence.
“My youngest daughter suffers a bit of anxiety yet when she goes there it fills her with confidence.”
Andrew Curphy from Sanderstead said his son George, 13, has developed a bond with the animals at the centre and learned a lot about how to look after them.
Curphy said: “For him, as an only child stuck at home, having that interaction with the animals is so good for his mental wellbeing.
“He’s been doing some of the training of the animals and in particular there’s a parrot there, and he’s building a bond.
“The isolation for an only child is very difficult when he can’t interact with others around him so being able to have that time away from home and spend it in such a constructive way, he’s learning so much while he’s there.
“If the centre closed it would be devastating for George and people like him because they wouldn’t have that outlet.”
The ARC Centre are accepting donations via their Crowdfunding appeal.