Tropiquaria, at Washford Cross, stepped in to help when the effects of the pandemic forced other zoos to downsize – it has re-homed 400 fish in the past two weeks.

Some zoos have run into financial trouble, some are having to close for the winter and one, Birdworld in Farnham, Surrey, decided not to reopen its ’Underwater World’ attraction.

This was because of the cost of running it, and the curator, David Bolton, said the savings would permit the main bird collection for which Birdworld is famous to be maintained.

Chris Moiser, director at Tropiquaria – which is open – said: “We were very pleased to help out here, and it is a credit to the zoo world that some 1,700 fish were ultimately moved and re-homed.

Tropiquaria acquired one new species for which it had been looking for some time and enlarged its stock of some others: “And, the jewel in the crown, we received about 200 Mexican live-bearing fish of a species that is almost certainly extinct in the wild.”

He said Tropiquaria already had a different strain of that species. The one at Birdworld arrived via Belle Island Aquarium in Detroit and then London Zoo.

“The significance of this is that this strain may well have originated in a different stream or pond to those that we have, so we have potentially opened up a wider gene pool – when you are dealing with such small populations this is a major advantage,” said Chris.

In the zoo world, animals are not bought and sold, because that would be trading in endangered species, but instead advertised to other zoos, together with a stock list. Those with any spare capacity, and those looking for particular species, were able to consider taking them on.

Tropiquaria was one of eight zoos able to help out here, and has received some 400 fish in the last two weeks.

Chris said: “Whilst it is difficult to predict the future of zoos and aquaria in the UK, and indeed in the whole world at present, we are adapting all the time, and our visitors seem grateful that we are open.

“Here in West Somerset, as the steam railway is still not functioning, Dunster Castle is on pre-booked admission only and the big holiday camps have much reduced entertainment we feel to be in a position of responsibility in maintaining a functioning tourist attraction. We just hope that we can continue to do so.”

Tropiquaria is currently open daily from 10.30am to 5pm, last admission at 4pm. Call 01984 640688 to enquire about visiting, or see the Tropiquaria website.