23rd December 2023

**Action now closed - thank you for your support!**

Wildway Mini Zoo - sometimes known as Cookham Zoo or Wildway Wildlife - have submitted an application to Royal Borough of Maidenhead and Windsor Council (RBMW) to gain permanent residency for their current temporary zoo located at Lower Mount Farm in Cookham. You can help us TAKE ACTION HERE!

It is not clear why their original application only received temporary conditions, but what is clear is that many of the animals held captive at the current facility will continue to be held and exploited in unnatural confinement at this concerning location, until at least January 2026, if these plans are approved.

Although we well know at Freedom for Animals that no captive environment can provide animals with the space or conditions they need to thrive, as this could only be met if they were allowed to live in their wild homes, it is clear that this facility is particularly problematic.

The land the zoo uses to hold animals captive is not only far too small to allow any type of natural behaviour to be exhibited, but also seriously lacking in appropriate infrastructure. 

The site plans show the current set up is mostly made up of sheds, which appear from the planning documents to serve as accommodation for a number of different species kept at the zoo. It is clear that these structures are not fit for purpose as they could never provide the appropriate health and welfare needs of any animal, let alone some of the exotic species mentioned as being present on site; including caracals, meerkats, polecats, lemurs, birds, and wolves. 

Wooden sheds are notoriously difficult to insulate and manage temperature in effectively. The lack of heat means that they can become damp and mouldy very quickly, and temperatures can drop significantly in winter causing a variety of health issues for animals enclosed in them. 

All zoos, small and large, claim their presence exists to educate the public, and raises awareness of the need to protect wild species and their habitats. This sentiment is again mentioned in the planning documents for this site; with the applicants claiming to serve the public both as a zoo and an animal education centre. 

Yet how can they claim any educational benefit when they are holding animals in these tiny and insufficient cages, that do not allow animals the space to roam as they would in the wild, or even exhibit their natural behaviour? What educational benefit is there to locking animals up and displaying them as attractions? 

These businesses do not serve any educational or conservational purpose. The reality is animals are being caged to provide entertainment to the paying public, and the applicants are profiting from their presence at the site, so are hoping to extend and build upon any past revenue stream by staying open until at least 2026. 

The use of animals for entertainment is an industry that needs to be winding down, not expanding. We are at a point in time where we are all too aware of the suffering humanity has inflicted on innocent animals, and the extent of the damage caused both to individuals and their homes, so how is it possible that we are still having to oppose new zoos such as this? It is 2023, and we should be putting energy and funding into protecting the natural world, not building more cages to hold animals prisoner. 

Not only is there no conservation benefit to locking up wild animals, but doing so on greenbelt land has a negative effect on native wildlife. The impact of these facilities even just existing on these precious patches of land is disastrous for a number of reasons. For one, holding animals captive generates a lot of waste. Urine and faeces runoff is an issue with any sites in which animals are held in unnatural environments, however, in this case the situation will be even more damaging, as the lack of appropriate resources and infrastructure in place also means a lack of sufficient drainage and cleaning facilities. 

The health and safety issue of animal waste seeping into the natural environment is both damaging to human and animal health, and leads to a higher risk of zoonotic disease. This is only exacerbated by the fact Cookham has had issues with flooding from the River Thames in the past, as seen on the report published here.

The site at Lower Mount Farm on Long Lane, is in close proximity to the high flooding risk zone of Cookham Dean, Winter Hill Road, and Lower Road. Not only that, but if the plans are approved, the likely increase in traffic will also heighten the level of pollution in the area, which will affect the wellbeing of native wildlife on land that should be better protected against such challenges.

A look on Wildway Mini Zoo’s website and social media shows how they often allow up close and personal visitor interactions with the animals - some of whom they class as “rescue animals”, and even transport them to events across the country. This means they are regularly subjecting animals to traumatic encounters with people, and subjecting them to noisy and stressful environments both at their site’s location and on the road. 

Not only that, the director of Wildway Mini Zoo was even recently seen trying to sell/trade three ring-tailed lemurs on a group on Facebook. Not only against the platforms' community standards, this unethical and disgraceful act says a lot about how the zoo owner's view the lives of the animals they hold captive. RBWM council must take this seriously. How can they extend the permission of this site when it is clear the business cannot care for the animals already there?

Help us to take action now!

CLICK HERE to head to our action page for our draft letter which you can use in your comments to the council.

CLICK HERE to be taken straight through to the planning application page on the RBMW website, where you can see the application documents, and click “Comment on this Application” to politely register your objections.

Comments close on 29th December 2023!