PROSPECTIVE buyers have shown "considerable interest" in a zoo after it was placed in the hands of administrators.
It comes as Staffordshire County Council calls for members of the public to support Blackbrook Zoological Park, near Leek, which was put up for sale following a significant drop in visitor numbers.
It is now being marketed for between £300,000 and £350,000, although this is only thought to cover the land and buildings. Potential buyers will have to negotiate with the owners of the animals to keep them at Blackbrook.
Staff are currently working at the zoo for free to help keep it going.
John Hinson, from Newcastle-based estate agent Hinson Parry and Co, said: "It is quite an unusual sale, but we have already received considerable interest from a number of parties.
"It has been a zoo for so long it is a great site to take on and we hope to see it thriving again soon with the right owner. It really has great potential."
The zoo has more than 200 species of animals and birds, including penguins, flamingos, emus, tortoises and meerkats.
The 40-acre site also boasts a cafe and visitors' centre.
Families are being urged to flock to the zoo as the search goes on to find a new "keeper".
Councillor Mark Winnington, Cabinet Member for Economy and Infrastructure on Staffordshire County Council said: "Staffordshire has a booming tourism economy, up around 35 per cent over the last four years, and I'm sure with some good investment and clever marketing the zoo could become a real hit with visitors."
"We have a rich tapestry of visitor attractions here in Staffordshire with Alton Towers, one of the country's leading theme parks just down the road, and a host of other exciting places including Cannock Chase and the majestic Shugborough Estate near Stafford – and Blackbrook is certainly one of the quirkier attractions.
"It is important for the zoo, and not least for the dedicated staff there, that it continues as a going concern and with a spell of fine weather forecast I would certainly encourage families to show their support and visit the attraction until a buyer can be found."
For the new owner it is the chance to follow the Hollywood stars Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson in a real-life version of the hit movie 'We Bought a Zoo'.
Staffordshire's tourism sector accounts for around £1.15 billion per year and providing more than 28,000 jobs.
Blackbrook administrator Phil Wood, of BCR, said "It's a great shame this situation has occurred, particularly as the site is so well known to so many families in the area and a valuable educational tool for our schools."
"This is one of the best known visitor attractions within a district which depends heavily on tourism, and we are very keen to find a buyer to take it on."