Wildlife centre fire repairs could cost £10,000 as Sybil the meerkat left without mate

By Thomas Parkes | Eccleshall | News | Published:

Funds are being raised to build a new home for a meerkat whose mate was killed in a fire at a wildlife centre.

Basil the meerkat died in a fire at Gentleshaw Wildlife Centre, pictured

Basil the meerkat died alongside three tortoises and at least 15 fruit bats in a blaze at Gentleshaw Wildlife Centre in Eccleshall on Monday morning.

Around 15 firefighters tackled the fire, which gutted the area where Basil lived with his mate Sybil and destroyed two other enclosures.

And now a JustGiving page has been set up to help the centre build another home for Sybil, who is recovering in the centre's hospital after running out of the enclosure as the flames took hold.

Firefighters damping down

By Tuesday lunchtime £435 had already been donated to the JustGiving page, although donations are also being sent in via the centre's PayPal page.

Director Jenny Morgan said the centre was unlikely to reopen until Thursday at the earliest and warned that repairs could cost as much as £10,000.

"We had hoped to reopen on Wednesday but we've had to have a tree surgeon out because the trees were not safe because of where the fire was," she said.


"A power cable had come down, and we also need to demolish what is left of the enclosure and clear the area.

"We've managed to move everybody around and the surviving meerkat is in our hospital, but the vets are quite pleased, she's eating normally now.

"It has been entirely horrendous.


"People have been amazing donating both money and their time. It's looking like it's going to cost £10,000 to replace, as the fire took three enclosures out and the electric system needs replacing."

Speaking through tears Jenny added: "Basil the meerkat was an absolute sweetheart. They can be quite feisty but Basil was terribly affectionate and would try to sit on your knee or get in your welly."

Further tragedy for Basil

Basil's death marks the end of a varied life, which saw him suffer in poor cramped conditions at a mobile zoo before moving to Staffordshire.

Life at the centre began for Basil and Sybil in December 2013, when they were rescued from conditions described as "appalling".

The pair had been kept in a cat carrier in a mobile zoo for several months.

But they were given a new life when the zoo was raided and the animals were taken in permanently by Gentleshaw.

Next came a dedicated home at the wildlife centre in Stone Road thanks to a successful 2014 fundraising effort.

However that home has now been destroyed and the effort to build a new home for Sybil has already begun.

Fire investigation

The blaze took place at 5.40am on Monday after an electrical fault in the enclosure's heating system.

Staffordshire Fire & Rescue Service said the blaze was started by a fault within the electrical heating system.

Staff started clearing up on Monday

A spokeswoman for the service explained: "The fire service was called at 5.39am and around 15 firefighters and a fire officer attended.

"It involved a fire in an outhouse which was used as an animal enclosure, approximately 10 by five metres."

The fire also involved power cables, leaving around 14 neighbouring properties without power, including Fletchers Garden Centre next door.

Click here to donate to the centre.

Thomas Parkes

By Thomas Parkes
Trainee Reporter - @TParkes_Star

Trainee reporter at the Express & Star, based in Wolverhampton. Got a story? Get in touch at

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