A zoo in Bedfordshire has just taken delivery of two very different animals, with a brace of Ford Ranger Raptor pick-up trucks joining the charity. The high-performance off-road vehicles have been delivered to ZSL Whipsnade Zoo near Luton, where they will be tasked with carrying food for the animals.

The zoo, which is the biggest in the UK, has some 3,500 hungry mouths to feed, spread across the 600-acre site. Although the two vehicles are both designed to withstand the huge impacts of high-speed off-roading, their duties will be slightly less taxing on zoo duty.

However, they will still have to haul bedding and feeding or activity toys around the zoo, and one of the vehicles has been given some special festive duties. Standing in for reindeer, the diesel-powered pick-up truck is tasked with standing in for Santa’s sleigh, helping with Christmas activities for the zoo’s visitors.

Ford Ranger Raptor at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

Both vehicles are being loaned to the zoo, which along with sister site ZSL London Zoo, had to close for 16 weeks as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Ford has supplemented the Whipsnade Raptors with a Congestion Charge-exempt Ford Transit Custom Plug-In Hybrid van for the London Zoo site.

Despite the loan vehicles, though, the zoo’s owners say the pandemic has put the sites under “huge financial strain”, as well as impacting the charity’s conservation efforts. Under normal circumstances, the two zoos would expect to welcome a combined total of more than a million visitors every year.

Ford Ranger Raptor at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

Owen Craft, ZSL Whipsnade Zoo’s chief operating officer said the zoo had found 2020 “challenging”, but said the Raptors would help the zoo look after its animals – many of which are endangered or extinct in the wild.

“As an international conservation charity this year has been challenging for us,” he said. “We have keenly felt the pressures caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, we and our sister site ZSL London Zoo, were forced to close for a total of 16 weeks each, putting us under huge financial strain and impacting our global conservation efforts. We are grateful to Ford for this loan, which is helping our keepers to care for some of the world’s most endangered animals.”

Meanwhile Mike Laird, Ford of Europe’s product manager for the Ranger pick-up truck range, said the new vehicles were working vehicles despite their high-performance pretensions.

“The Ranger Raptor is a workhorse, but on this occasion it’s working alongside the horses,” he joked. “These visually striking pick-up trucks will become as much of a visitor attraction as the animals themselves, not least because Ranger Raptors stay still for photos!”

Gallery: ZSL Whipsnade Zoo gets new Ford Ranger Raptors