Crowdfund Dartmoor Zoo

An University project Plymouth, Devon

To secure the future of Dartmoor Zoo as a centre of excellence for conservation, education and research.

They did it!

On 22nd Dec 2014 we successfully raised


of £1,600,000 target

740 backers


35 days

Crowdfund Dartmoor Zoo

In 2008, I wrote the book, We Bought a Zoo, which was later made into the Hollywood film of the same name, starring Matt Damon.

This heartwarming film has touched people all around the world with its message of hope. But inevitably, it only told part of the story.

My entire extended family clubbed together to save this zoo, and to provide a home for my elderly mother. Eight years on, the zoo and the animals are saved, and we have a thriving education and research department. More than 100 university projects have taken place here over the last three years, and we are now studying animal cognition – trying to unlock the secrets of animal minds.

The zoo is safe, but it needs to move forwards and become a charity, like most other zoos.

I need to buy this zoo from my family, so that I can turn it into a charity. No bank will lend money so that you can devalue the land and make it impossible to repossess from a charity.

But a crowd of supporters, each helping to buy a little piece of it, might.

If you support this aim, please buy the e-book below. My last book got made into a film. And buying a zoo the second time around is just as difficult, and just as filled with drama. Believe me; I’m living it now. Click the cover for some exclusive extracts.

The suggested price is £10, but please feel free to pay what you like. I will deliver the book by the Spring.

This amazing zoo has survived and matured over the last 8 years. If you want a tour from the comfort of your own home, choose the Virtual Tour, behind the scenes and up close with the animals, in a way that even visitors to the zoo don’t get to see them. Below you'll find a sneak peak of some of the animals I'll introduce you to on the tour.











 Tour 2











Secure the future of Dartmoor Zoo by helping me to complete the process of turning it into a charity. This will give the animals, and everyone at the Zoo, security, and enable us to accomplish our ambition of setting the standard for zoos and become a world-class education and research centre.

Dartmoor Zoo 

About Dartmoor Zoo

Tree down

In 2006 my family, the Mee's, bought Dartmoor Zoo in order to prevent the majority of animals from being destroyed. It seemed an almost impossible task to reopen this broken down place, with its wobbly fences, overcrowded enclosures, and 250 exotic animals to feed. 

It was a leap of faith, but our whole family rose to the challenge, and we managed to reopen the zoo in 2007, despite suffering the tragic loss of my wife, Katherine, to a brain tumour.

Matt Damon and Benjamin Mee

In 2008 I wrote a book, We Bought a Zoo, and astonishingly, our tale of hope in adversity inspired Hollywood director Cameron Crowe to make the heartwarming Hollywood film, We Bought a Zoo, starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson.

Dartmoor Zoo has come a long, long way since 2006. We’ve worked hard to build up excellent relationships with other zoos, and have now been accepted onto several endangered breeding programs, like the Amur leopard and Sumatran tiger. We teach 3 diplomas in Animal Management on site in partnership with Bicton and Duchy Colleges. We won the Eden TV Attraction of the Year award in 2011 in competition with some of the most prominent zoos in the UK, and have been selected as part of a Government campaign on using zoos as a public health resource for families next year.

The demand from students to study the animals at Dartmoor Zoo is enormous, with 115 Masters and Undergraduate projects completed here in the last three years, to the point where Plymouth University is donating a classroom for 40 students, to be installed this spring. It is a beautiful and sustainable structure, designed with natural and organic geometry to ensure that it sits harmoniously within the landscape, and in itself helps to promote our ideals of sustainability and conservation.


The university is also in talks with us about carrying out exciting animal cognition projects on the site, studying what goes on in animal minds. This I hope will have massive implications for the way in which animals and their rights are regarded. This was my background before we bought the zoo, and to say that I am excited about it is an understatement.

I’m having to pinch myself.

MarmosetBest of all, we recently broke through the red tape barrier to acquire marmosets, the first new primates at the zoo for more than a decade. It’s a significant step towards fulfilling the dream of turning this place into a world class research centre for Animal Intelligence.

All these things have just been possible as a family business, battling through two global recessions, and five of the wettest English summers on record.

This experience has shown me that this zoo needs to become a charity, and shift its dependence on seasonal tourists, towards research and education. The process is already well underway.

As a charity, with tax relief and Gift Aid, this place could really thrive.

Now is finally the time to buy the zoo from my family, and complete the transition.

Why Crowdfunding?

crowdfundI tried going to the banks for a conventional mortgage to buy the freehold and then sign the site over to a charity. But after they had finished laughing, they said 'NO!'.

So I decided to try the innovative new way of raising money for causes that people want to see come to fruition: crowdfunding.

Going around the brick wall of the banks, I love this his new concept of funding things that people want to see happen.

If enough people want to see something succeed, they can make it happen, by giving what they can. Even by contributing a small amount, all our supporters around the world can finally help the zoo make it to the next level.

Charitable status is a zoo’s natural habitat. It’s like releasing the zoo into the wild. We will be eligible for grants to help maintain our enclosures and even paths, to help with disabled access.

LynxKeeperI will have less control over it, but the zoo will continue to develop and thrive according to the vision which everyone here shares. It’s safer for the animals, and the people who work here, and will make it possible to continue and develop our work in looking after animals, studying them to make their lives better, here and around the world, and enhancing people’s lives along the way.

People from around the world have been inspired by this story of hope. Now everyone can actively participate in keeping this hope alive.

Join us in this fantastic bid to Crowdfund Dartmoor Zoo.

Every donor will get an electronic copy of my new book, Add to cart: Dartmoor Zoo the follow up to We Bought A Zoo, whether they give £1, or $1000. At a fundraiser for Washington Park Zoo last year, someone did actually bid $1000 dollars for a signed copy of my book. Can anyone beat that? There’s a special VIP reward pack for the five highest bids. Scroll down to learn more about the rewards. Every single donor will also get a digital thank you, along with an mp3 of Vlad chuffing - the noise he makes to say hello, and have their names on a monument which will go at the centre of the zoo to say thank you and remember all those who helped forever.

So what do we need?

Marmoset crowdfunder

To buy the freehold for £1,000,000, I need to raise £1.6m, which includes a staggering £600,000 in taxes and transaction costs.

If we raise more than we need, every penny will be spent on making the zoo better.

If our goal is not reached the donated funds will all contribute towards buying as much of the freehold as possible so that I can turn the zoo into a charity and secure it's future.



Iberian wolfIberian wolfOur favourite international project is our participation with protecting Iberian Wolves, in Spain and Portugal. And it’s not by breeding more wolves to introduce back into the wild.

Participating with Conservation Canines, we’re breeding rare Estrela Mountain dogs to guard the shepherds flocks, which stops the wolves attacking them in the first place. This means that the shepherds don’t set traps or poisons for the wolves, and learn to live alongside them.

Estrela mountain dogWatch out for the arrival of Eva, at Dartmoor Zoo soon. Eva is the first of our breeding Estrela dogs, and her puppies will be going back to Portugal to carry out their vital conservation work in years to come.

You can visit the zoo website to find out in more detail about the projects that we are working on, and those we (hopefully!) plan for the future.


Corporate Sponsorships

restaurantElectronics giant Philips have donated £20,000 of dimmable LED lighting for our restaurant, saving us thousands of pounds on maintenance and electricity.

Morgan Sindall recently donated an extra disabled toilet, supplied installed and decorated. This is the kind of practical help we love.

And just this week we have had the excellent news that Toyota GB is sponsoring Dartmoor Zoo with three vehicles, to help continue our joint programme of free outreach sessions to under privileged schools.

It's all go! And we're always open to more corporate partnerships!


The rewards

Add to cart: Dartmoor ZooWe have rewards for all price ranges so please give what you can and know that it greatly appreciated. All contributors, as well as the reward they chose, will receive an advance copy of my new ebook, Add to cart: Dartmoor Zoo the follow up to We Bought A Zoo, whether they give £1, or $1000. The book will include this process, so by contributing you're influencing the outcome of it!

VladEvery single donor will also get a digital thank you, along with an mp3 of Vlad chuffing - the noise he makes to say hello, and have their names on a monument which will go at the centre of the zoo to say thank you and remember all those who helped forever.Terms and conditions of the rewards

We aim to deliver all rewards by the estimated delivery dates as stated under the reward. If for an unforeseeable reason this looks likely not to be met, you will be informed of the revised date as soon as possible. 

Any rewards which feature days at the zoo are as stated and do not include travel or expenses. Age restrictions do apply for experiences where the animals are met - minimum age 8.

Sponsorships of the animals and enclosures are for the period of 1 year.

Sponsor an animal

Balena the Raccoon, Jasiri the Lion and Carlos the Iberian Wolf are up now!

DZP Beanie

The Dartmoor Zoo Beanie Hat!

Benjamin Mee is very rarely seen without a beanie hat on! This one specially designed one could be yours.




 T-shirtThe 'I helped buy a zoo online' T-Shirt.

Designed exclusively for this crowdfunding campaign, you can tell everyone that you helped a zoo! You will be contacted regarding the size you would like - sizes available for men, women and children. 




 20 secs t-shirtThe '20 seconds of courage' T-shirt










'We Bought A Zoo' canvas tote bag










Thank you!

I’d like to thank everyone who contributes, we can’t do this without you.

So, please get involved and help us now!

You can also help Crowdfund Dartmoor Zoo by spreading the word!

 Tapir smile