SAINT JOHN, -- It was a bittersweet Sunday at the Cherry Brook Zoo in Saint John, where staff are preparing to say goodbye to its residents. New homes have been secured for nearly 75 per cent of the animals as the facility prepares to close permanently.

"It really is a difficult time because we've poured a lot of, not just work into this; we pour our hearts into this," says Cherry Brook Zoo zookeeper, Erin Brown. "Every day we're out here, we're connected with these animals – they're friends to us in a way."

Their animal friends will be parting ways with staff as the zoo slowly shuts down operations. Executive director of the zoo, Martha McDevitt, says there are about six different species of animals – around ten individual animals – who still need new homes – including the big cats.

"We need to find facilities that are able to accommodate their health needs as well," says McDevitt. "It's not so straight-forward."

After 40 years in business, the iconic facility announced it was shutting down near the end of April as its financial struggles proved too much.

The zoo has appealed for donations to help maintain while the animals are still in its care. With an estimated monthly budget for animal feed and staff running between $20,000 to $25,000, the zoo has raised between $8,000 and $9,000.

McDevitt says moving the animals is the next big step and hopes to begin by mid-May.

"It's looking like some restrictions are easing up," says McDevitt. "So we can at least start to look at some neighbouring provinces and local farms."

Zoo employees say they are already working to ensure the move goes smoothly.

"We're going to be doing a lot of prep for moving animals," says Brown. "We're going to be building carriers and things that we can send them out in, or finding appropriate carriers and crates and things."

Meanwhile, the zoo says it is grateful to all of those who have provided financial support. However, staff note more assistance is needed to continue with its appeal for donations.