CHERISHED animals that have been well looked after at a nature centre in Southwick may have to be rehomed unless the team there can get a zoo licence.

The charity Hope Nature Centre, Frome Road, has been caring for a vast array of different animals, many of which have been rescued and brought there, for the last decade.

However, Wiltshire Council has informed the centre, which comprises a cafe and an animal park that provides work experience for people with learning disabilities, that as it has owls, parrots, emus and tortoises, they need to apply for a zoo licence.

This is because these are animals of wild species, so a zoo licence is needed in this instance.

If the centre does not do this in the next couple of months, the staff will not be allowed to put these animals on show or the authority will have to find new homes for them to live.

“We would be desperately disappointed if they couldn’t stay here where they are well looked after and cherished,” said centre fundraiser, Carolyn Robins.

“The stability and care they receive is so important for their welfare. To get a zoo licence you need a letter of intent, to pay the £1,500 licence fee and pay another £1,500 to have adverts in a local and a national newspaper. If we get this, we can keep the animals. Wiltshire Council are helping us through this process so we can get it done as soon as possible.”

A Wiltshire Council spokesman said: “Due to certain animals being kept at the centre it is necessary for them to apply for the relevant zoo licence, which is based on national legislation.

"We have advised the centre on the options available to them and how to keep their costs as low as possible.

"We have given the centre’s management team some time to think about these options and have offered to schedule a meeting with them after the summer to discuss their next steps.

"In the meantime, we are on hand to provide further support and advice to them should they need it.”