TWO thousand tonnes of earth have caused devastation in a landslip at a North Devon wildlife centre.
Torrential rain caused the incident at Come Martin Wildlife Park.
The slip started at the top of the park and saw around 30 trees dragged down a steep bank, narrowly avoiding nearby penguin and sea lion enclosures.
No animals were injured but the park's otters had to be moved to a temporary home, after excess soil filled up the three pools and ran into the stream which runs through their enclosure.
The landslip, which was discovered on Christmas Eve, also wiped out a section of one of the park's pathways along with its railings and completely submerged a further two.
There are natural springs running underneath the park and at their source at the top of the bank are two large trees which is where the landslip started.
It is thought the recent bouts of rain caused the soil at the root of the trees to become eroded, sparking around 300 tonnes of soil to begin moving down the bank, eventually dragging a total of 2,000 tonnes to the bottom of the hill.
A clear-up operation is currently under way although the full extent and cost of the damage will not be known for at least another month.
The situation is made worse by the fact the park's insurance company will not cover the cost of any damage as the incident did not happen in the main grounds, which is the area covered by the policy.
Park owner and director Dawn Gilbert is hoping to turn the devastation into an opportunity to carry out works to benefit the park.
She said: "It will be continuous work for the next month in order for us to open. However we are evaluating the disaster zone with a view to turning a negative into a positive.
"In the clearing created near the penguin area we will probably look at building a new enclosure, and the space created at the top of the landslide will enable us to reduce the steepness of the entrance into the park for our visitors. This will not be completed by opening but it is something we can continue to do when we are open."
Dawn said the park will be open as usual from February.
She said: "We have been really grateful to have had a few local people helping us as we would not be able to open unless we carried out this work.
"It has obviously put us behind with our other projects, although fortunately we had already completed our new gibbon enclosure and we are still carrying out other improvements but obviously this has now taken priority.
"We will be opening for the February half term as planned and welcome any support that our local community can give us as unfortunately this has not been covered by our insurance policy."