GET behind a father-daughter team who are on a journey to build London’s largest zoo for rescue animals in Feltham by next summer.
The Chronicle has backed founder of Tropical Zoo Tony Purdy, 67, and daughter Alice, on their £2 million quest to construct an indoor rainforest zoo and return hundreds of the exotic animals they saved.
The Purdy family of New Road, Feltham, have spent their whole life doting and caring for unwanted and abused animals at their previous site in Syon Park, Brentford, until it was closed down after more than two decades, earlier this year.
Now the family along with their dedicated rangers have relocated to the Hounslow Urban Farm on Faggs Road, Feltham, and have brought the smaller animals to the community farm while the bigger animals have temporarily moved out.
They are hoping to drum up £500,000 to haul in builders to start work on the new 44 acre site, with the remaining £1.5 million needed to return the rest of their flock and get the new home up and running.
Passionate animal lover Tony Purdy sold the family home in the 1990s to start up a rescue centre for unwanted animals in Syon Park, renamed the Tropical Zoo a few years later.
For more than two decades Tony and his daughter Alice worked tirelessly to provide a home for hundreds of abused, mistreated and abandoned animals.
During their 22 years at Brentford, about 600 animals have been rehabilitated, nursed and had their lives turned around with the help of a dedicated flock of staff.
However, this year the Purdy family, who invested everything into the community rescue centre, were forced to close the doors and move out on February 28 due to the development of a hotel.
With sheer determination, larger animals such as lemurs, monkeys, and Houdini the 12 foot crocodile (who was saved from being shot by the rescue centre) were rehoused to zoos across the UK and in Spain, while hundreds of fish were moved to the London Aquarium.
Smaller animals including reptiles and owls, as well as the staff, relocated to the Hounslow Urban Farm, in Feltham, which the family took over from the council under a 125-year lease, on March 1.
The community farm and car park land combined stretches out to 44 acres – 24 football pitches – where a new dream zoo will be built, with the potential to be a bigger tourist attraction than London Zoo.
Tony said: “The ethos of the Tropical Zoo has always been to give these poor animals a second chance and to inspire the next generation to be responsible nature lovers to stop the abuse happening.
“We invested everything into the Tropical Zoo over the years; everything we own and ever had.
“We had to vacate the premises at Syon Park because they were getting anxious to get rid off us and we couldn’t get the lease extended.”
A planning application to build a glasshouse enclosing a tropical rainforest with a river running through it, was accepted in November last year.
But plans to move directly from the old site to the new zoo ran into trouble when Syon rejected a further extension on the lease.
The knock-on effect meant animals had to be quickly relocated and in the meantime investors fell through.
Alice said: “When it came to vacating so quickly everyone was panicking and we called in favours from zoos and governing bodies and staff who worked tirelessly to find the animals a new home.
“They are like our babies and we want them back. It was the end of the world for us at the time, but we are here now and determined to get the new zoo up and running.
“The staff all share mine and my dad's vision. They want this to succeed. They want the new centre built because it’s something they are passionate about as well.”
Nine full time staff including Tony and Alice, along with a crew of volunteers help day and night with the upkeep of the farm and organising fundraising events.
Urban residents include sheep, goats, pigs, ducks, alpacas and peacocks, who reside on the grounds, along with some of the original zoo animals.
The Tropical Zoo will take about eight months to build after which the menagerie of animals will return and the two sites will run together.
The Purdys will bring back educational facilities including three classrooms to aid learning, and build on their outreach programme and school roadshows which started at Syon reaching out to about 800,000 students.
While animals will be kept in open-top enclosures for a clear viewing, there will be a chance for animal encounters, a walk through the rainforest to spot primates and exotic animals, a butterfly house, and more.
Alice concluded: “We want to teach children about the plants and the eco-system. We want schools to work with us and want to become part of the community. We want people to go on a journey and an adventure in our zoo.”
The dream to build a bigger and better rescue centre, reunite animals, and open the doors to rescue hundreds more, has begun.
More than £60,000 has been raised through donations and fundraising events but there is a long way to the £2million target.
The Chronicle shares the Purdys’ passion for seeing this project succeed and will be running regular stories detailing how the fundraising push is progressing.
This will include details of all upcoming events and activities. News editor Chris Longhurst said: “I have been a long-time admirer of the excellent work the Tropical Zoo does and it is in everyone’s interest, be they on four legs or two, to see it continue.”
n Visit Hounslow Urban Farm on Faggs Road, Feltham. Open daily from 10am to 5pm. Entry is £6 adults, £4.50 children, or £19 family tickets. Visit www.tropicalzoo.org or call 0208 8319658.