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One of the South West’s largest conservation charities has announced its 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 several nature reserves in Devon.

And while Paignton Zoo visitor numbers were down, Newquay Zoo and Living Coasts both saw increases.

In the twelve months to the end of October 2014 Paignton Zoo Environmental Park received 439,716 visitors compared with 462,660 for the same period last year, a drop of 22,944. The Zoo’s business plan aimed to attract 432,000 visitors in this period.

Living Coasts welcomed 125,080, up from 121,343 last year. And Newquay Zoo in Cornwall recorded 158,151 visitors, up from 156,573 in the previous year.

Tony Stokes, heading of the charity’s trading arm, which donates its annual profits to the charity, said: “Despite reduced visitor numbers, this year’s contribution from on-site trading has topped last year’s. Catering at Paignton Zoo is up 9.3% and the ethical profile of our retail and catering appears to increasingly attract support from visitors.

“We will see when all the numbers have been crunched, but it is likely to have been one of our best trading years.”

Finance Director Chris Pyne: “The three zoos are all performing as expected given the erratic market conditions. The bad weather at the start of the year didn’t help and we’re not really seeing signs of wider economic recovery just yet. Despite this we are weathering the storm.

“Visitor numbers for the crucial seven-week holiday period in July and August were the worst for 15 years. But overall the three zoos are up on budget due to - among other things - cautious budgeting and spend per head being up on last year.”

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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