Gentleshaw Wildlife Centre rising from ashes as new mate found for meerkat
A fire-hit wildlife centre in Staffordshire is now starting to rebuild enclosures after more than £20,000 has been raised by members of the public.
Gentleshaw Wildlife Centre in Eccleshall was closed for three days after the blaze last month, which killed three giant tortoises, a meerkat and around 15 fruit bats.
Volunteers have been working hard to clear the damage caused by the fire, which ripped through three enclosures after being started by a fault in the electrical heating system.
And now work has started rebuilding the four enclosures which were destroyed or damaged after more than £24,000 has been raised.
Jenny Morgan, director at the centre, said she is "utterly overwhelmed" at the amount raised so far.
She said: "It will all go towards the enclosures as we have four to replace.
"I am utterly overwhelmed, completely and utterly, we didn't want to turn it into a money thing but at the end of the day we have to replace the enclosures.
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"We thought if we raised £8,000 or £10,000 we'd be able to replace one enclosure, but we've had big companies donating and also little ones coming in with their £5 pocket money.
"It's something positive, it's really bolstered everybody's spirits.
"Work has begun on the enclosures, it's going to take a few months to finish, depending on the weather.
"I just want to say a massive thank you to everyone who has donated anything and all our staff and volunteers too."
Basil the meerkat died in the fire while his partner Sybil escaped and the sanctuary has now found a new mate for her.
Jenny said she was contacted by the owner of a male meerkat who needed a new home, and so Derry was introduced to Sybil after she was fully recovered.
"They have got on absolutely brilliantly," Jenny said. "We introduced them for about half an hour at first and they were making all the right noises and body language.
"Sybil went to him and had a bit of a sniff, they've got on every since.
"We named him Derry in a nod to the fruit bats we lost in the fire.
"We saw a silly video we saw online of an Irish family trying to catch a bat in their house and they keep shouting 'Derry', so when we always used to try and catch the bats we would say Derry and joke about it."