Tygerberg. 04.11.12. Empty cages at the Tygerberg Zoo which had to close because og=f financial constraints. Picture Ian Landsberg

Cape Town - After nearly 35 years, Cape Town’s only zoo has closed its doors for good.

Tygerberg Zoo, situated about 40km outside of Cape Town along the N1, was sold for an undisclosed amount between May and July, and all the animals have had to find new homes.

The zoo was sold and closed owing to financial constraints, which owner Lorraine Spence said she saw coming.

She said she had no choice but to close the zoo.

“I had to sell the land because we couldn’t afford it any more. This is an emotional time.”

She said she was disappointed that her husband John’s dream of creating a safe space for animals didn’t work out.

He died in 2010. The 24 hectares of land was home to lions, tigers, zebras, cheetahs, chimpanzees and marmosets.

Also housed at the zoo were 160 bird species and 63 reptile species. The zoo also specialised in breeding rare and endangered animals.

“We were part of the African Association of Zoos and we sold the animals only to accredited people,” Spence said.

The lions and tigers were taken in by the Drakenstein Lion Park, as were the chimpanzees.

The park is building a new facility called Chimp Haven especially to house the displaced Tygerberg Zoo animals.

This new addition is set to be opened in December. The Drakenstein Lion Park, which is in the Cape Winelands, comprises 50ha.

In conjunction with other animal organisations, the park’s management will help ensure a better future for the animals.

Cameron Meyer, a Grade 9 pupil from Milnerton, was saddened by the news of the zoo’s closing.

“I wanted to apply there for a part-time job because working with animals is my passion. The news has dampened my spirits,” Cameron said.

He said he still aspires to work with animals, even if it means moving to another part of the country.

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Cape Argus