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One of the South West’s largest conservation charities has announced cautiously-optimistic results for the year. The Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust is the charity that runs Paignton Zoo, Living Coasts in Torquay and Newquay Zoo in Cornwall, as well as nature reserves in Devon.

In the twelve months to the end of October 2016 Paignton Zoo Environmental Park received around 475,000 visitors, up roughly 25,000 on the previous year. Living Coasts welcomed 137,000, slightly up on last year. And Newquay Zoo in Cornwall recorded a small drop to 159,000.

Paignton Zoo Finance Director Chris Pyne: “There are some positives but also some negatives in these results. It was a mixed picture, but visitor numbers were definitely helped by some excellent weather this summer.”

Paignton Zoo Director of Guest Services Helen Warren added: “We have seen some excellent results with guest satisfaction across our three sites - I’m particularly pleased that the new play areas and food outlets at Paignton Zoo have been so popular.”

Clare Rugg, Operations Manager at Living Coasts, said: “We had slightly higher overall figures than last year. Torquay harbour was certainly very busy over the summer, it was evident that we had lots more visitors than in previous years. Although the sun was out and people went to the beach, families are always looking for a variety of things to do – Living Coasts offers an interactive visit for families, many of whom were keen to take up our offer of a free seven-day return ticket!

“This time last year we were saying that a wet summer had been good for Living Coasts, because we have large areas undercover. This year we did well even with good weather, which shows that we are not only a wet-weather option.”

The Trust’s Executive Director Simon Tonge said: “Other zoos around the country have, for the most part, had similarly good seasons, with a strong correlation between visitor numbers and the fine weather in August. The other factor may be the economy; the collapse of sterling after the Brexit vote may have encouraged more people to take holidays in the UK rather than short breaks on the near continent.”

Education is a vital part of the charity’s work. Both Paignton Zoo and Newquay Zoo increased the number of school bookings on last year, while bookings at Living Coasts remained steady. More primary schools booked visits across all three sites. The construction of a new classroom at Living Coasts in 2017 is expected to boost education work there.

The Trust puts about a quarter of a million pounds into conservation each year. Paignton Zoo supports conservation work in the UK with dormice and crayfish and in countries overseas including Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Kenya, Nigeria and Indonesia.

Living Coasts supports conservation work with penguins and bank cormorants in South Africa and seahorses and seagrass habitat locally in Tor Bay. Newquay Zoo is focussed on species such as civets and pangolins in Vietnam.

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