AN INTERNATIONALLY renowned owl sanctuary which has been given notice to quit its Cumbrian centre has been offered new homes as far apart as Scotland and the south coast of England.

The World Owl Trust (WOT) said it was ‘amazed and gratified’ by the ‘huge’ public response to its plight.

For decades, the sanctuary has been a major attraction at Muncaster Castle, Ravenglass, but late last year trustees were given notice by the castle’s owners that its contract would end in May 2015.

WOT president Tony Warburton said it had gone public with its dilemma after the ‘reluctance of the Muncaster Estate to enter into negotiation’.

More than 200 owls are housed at the centre, representing around 50 species - some of them among the world's rarest.

“Since the notice to end the contract was made public, WOT has been amazed and gratified by the huge response it has received from private landowners, farmers, estates and other animal collections.

“So many organizations are offering the trust facilities where the WOT can locate its renowned World Owl Centre, where it will be welcomed and its global conservation work valued and supported. “The trust has had offers of sites from Scotland to the south coast of England where the WOT would be able to have its own gate admission fee.

“The choices are amazing and with its own entrance fee, the WOT will have the potential funds to conduct even more of its vital conservation, education and research work both in this country and overseas.

“Allied with the offers of relocation sites, the trust has also been contacted by various groups who are willing to hold some of the WOT owls temporarily while the new site is developed.”

Mr Warburton added: “We cannot thank people enough for their goodwill and willingness to support the World Owl Trust and the work it does. Every offer will be thoroughly investigated by the Trustees before a final decision is made.”

Peter Frost-Pennington of the Muncaster Estate said: “We asked the World Owl Trust to produce a business plan two years ago, but this has not been forthcoming. We are planning to set out what we are looking for from the owl centre at Muncaster in future in the next month. This will leave well over a year for negotiations.

“Whatever the outcome, the World Owl Trust can remain at Muncaster until May 2015. We have also made it clear that there will continue to be a home for the owls at Muncaster. If the Trust were to leave Muncaster and were not able to find another place to go, or they cannot rehome their owls anywhere else, they will be very welcome to leave their owls here until they can do so.”