Animal firm 'left behind' in bid to stay afloat during pandemic

Fenland animal firm seeks financial support

The Exotic Animal Encounter looks after and displays animals ranging from skunks to kookaburras at schools and events in the Fenland and Peterborough area. - Credit: Facebook/Exotic Animal Encounter

A business owner said she and her husband “have been left behind” as they bid to keep their heads above water amid the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Kelly Bates and husband Matt have ran the Exotic Animal Encounter in Whittlesey for around 10 years and showcase creatures ranging from skunks to owls at schools and events around Fenland and Peterborough. 

But since last March, they have received limited financial support from Fenland District Council (FDC) and the government due to not running a separate premise for their business. 

Fenland animal firm bids to keep afloat during Covid

Just one of the animals that Kelly and Matt Bates, from the Exotic Animal Encounter, look after. - Credit: Facebook/Exotic Animal Encounter

“We have asked for help, but because we do not have a premises, we got a one-off grant of £1,000 from FDC. Other than that, the only money we get is our own and a self-employment income support scheme grant,” Kelly said. 

“We are having to sell personal things to keep our heads above water, which we have been doing since March.” 


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Kelly and Matt have since asked for help from the local community to earn around £3,000 for the animals, and have had to sell personal items to keep afloat. 

Although they have applied several times to FDC for a discretionary business grant, they have been ineligible to receive more funding, leaving the couple with no choice. 

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“It has all been a huge embarrassment. Normally, it’s us that provides the help,” Kelly said. 

Fenland animal firm bids to keep afloat during Covid

Just one of the animals that Kelly and Matt Bates, from the Exotic Animal Encounter, look after. - Credit: Facebook/Exotic Animal Encounter

“I’ve approached FDC four to five times for financial support and every time, we’re not eligible. Keeping the animals safe and not stressed is massive for us.” 

A spokesperson for FDC said a second round of funding for businesses ineligible for the more recent local restrictions support grant will be available from this week. 

However, the longer they are unable to work, Kelly believes the chances of an uncertain future will grow. 

Fenland animal firm bids to keep afloat during Covid

A tortoise from the Exotic Animal Encounter on display to schoolchildren. - Credit: Facebook/Exotic Animal Encounter

Fenland animal firm bids to keep afloat during Covid

Kelly and Matt Bates, who look after a range of animals, say they have been ineligible to receive further financial support for their business during the Covid-19 pandemic. - Credit: Instagram/Exotic Animal Encounter

“We’ve got people around here that love us. We’ve got 18,000 followers on Facebook and if everyone gave £1, we would not be struggling,” she added. 

"Before Covid, we were focused on safety and it has had a big impact because people would want us back. It is horrible we don’t know what our future looks like. 

“A lot of zoos get thousands of pounds donated and they get help, but we don’t.” 

You can donate at https://bit.ly/38V64V5, https://www.paypal.com/pools/c/8tSV57W289 or https://bit.ly/2M1n1o6.  

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