May 23 2013 Latest news:
By Stephen Pullinger
Friday, February 22, 2013
Signs at the entrances told half-term visitors Banham Zoo and Africa Alive have entered an exciting new era.
For people with a passion for wildlife conservation, February 14 was a fitting date for the official launch of the Zoological Society of East Anglia.
Martin Goymour, 62, who has overseen the development of Banham Zoo for more than 40 years and transformed the fortunes of Africa Alive, near Lowestoft, since buying it 22 years ago, described the day as a “fantastic step forward in the evolution of the zoos”.
Handing over control of the attractions to an independent charitable trust has been an important way of securing their long-term future.
He said: “I have devoted all my time and energy looking to protect, promote and advance them, but my passion can be someone else’s burden.
“It has been a struggle to finance the zoos over the past 40 years, investing millions of pounds in their development, and without the support of other family businesses Banham Zoo would be far smaller – if it had survived – and I doubt we would have bought Africa Alive.”
He said the decision to transfer the assets of the zoos, run as two limited companies, to a trust was taken at a family conference two years ago when his son, Adam, 25, park manager at Dinosaur Adventure, and daughter Kiera, 28, both agreed that securing the zoos’ futures was paramount.
The Charity Commission approved the conservation and education aims of the new charity in December but it has taken a further two months of rigorous checks by the zoos’ bank before the transfer could finally be agreed.
Mr Goymour said: “Half of zoos are charitable trusts, but East Anglia is peculiar in that until now they have all been privately owned – perhaps down to the entrepreneurial spirit of the region.”
Banham and Africa Alive will now have to stand on their own two feet without the support of the remaining family businesses, even in lean years like last summer’s washout which was described by Mr Goymour as “the worst I have known”.
However, their key economic advantage as a charity is that they will be exempt from paying VAT on admission income.
My Goymour, who is set to carry on as zoo director, said the transfer was intended to be “seamless” for the zoos’ 250 staff.