Wildlife charity volunteers have given more hours than ever before.

Volunteers at Paignton Zoo Environmental Park and Living Coasts in Torquay gave more than 26,000 hours during 2013 - equivalent to nearly 3 whole years, 155 weeks or more than 1,000 full days.

For the year ending in October 2013, 166 volunteers gave 26,074.5 hours – 1,932.25 more than in 2012.

Volunteer Coordinator Neil Thomas-Childs is full of praise for all the volunteers at both sites: “The support from our volunteers is very much appreciated as, without their time and dedication, much of what they do through their roles would not be possible.

“Volunteers do not replace paid roles, but provide invaluable support for the organisation. Amongst many other things, they enhance our visitors’ experience, raise awareness of our work, help feed our animals and support our staff. They helped to raise nearly £47,000. It was a terrific year - volunteers not only supported us at both sites but also out and about in the Bay and around Exeter with the Great Gorillas Project.”

Simon Tonge, Executive Director of the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust, which runs Paignton Zoo and Living Coasts, as well as Newquay Zoo in Cornwall, said: “The stats are impressive - I am delighted with what the volunteers continue to contribute towards the operation of the zoos. My thanks, and those of our 11 trustees - themselves unpaid - go to all of our volunteers.”

The volunteers had little chance to put their feet up before Christmas. At Paignton Zoo they supported the Christmas event, filling 16 different roles each day. 460 hours were put in by volunteers preparing for and running the event. Over the year another 850 hours were spent knitting and crocheting 78 animals for the tree dressing and 12 Animal Days of Christmas trail in December. Volunteers also supported Santa’s Grotto at Living Coasts.

Although both Paignton Zoo and Living Coasts have a core of dedicated volunteers, regular recruitment is needed to maintain numbers. Volunteer opportunities are advertised on the Paignton Zoo web site at www.paigntonzoo.org.uk/get-involved/volunteer or the Living Coasts web site at www.livingcoasts.org.uk/get-involved/volunteer

Quotes An awesome experience. The amount of free space given to the animals was very impressive Quotes