John Lewis has refused to donate to a charity campaign to save abandoned penguins despite its lavish TV advert.
A charity run by Bristol Zoo is urgently seeking £20,000 to buy food for penguin chicks at a rehabilitation centre it funds in South Africa.
So organisers asked the retail giant – which made £226m profit last year – for a donation in light of its high-profile Christmas ad featuring a lonely penguin which finds love.
But staff were left ‘disappointed’ when the business wished them luck – but refused to offer them any help in reaching their target.
A spokeswoman for the zoo said: “As a wildlife conservation charity, we decided to launch a public appeal for starving penguin chicks in South Africa.
“In view of the enormous impact of their Christmas penguin advert, we approached John Lewis to ask them to support our project in the wild; either through helping us to spread the word via their online channels or through financial support.
“We were disappointed to learn that they felt they could contribute neither to help save these endangered creatures.
“However, we are delighted that many members of the public are supporting this appeal, and remain hopeful that the generosity of the human spirit ensures that the chicks don’t go hungry this Christmas.”
Bristol Zoological Society set up and runs a charity called SANCCOB, which helps African pengiun chicks abandoned by their parents.
The bird’s population has fallen by 70 per cent between 2001 and 2013 and fewer than 18,000 breeding pairs are left in the wild off the South African and Namibian coast.
Every winter hundreds of chicks are taken in after they are abandoned by their parents, and staff are currently looking after 430.
Staff at the society said the price of fish has sky-rocketed this season and an extra £20,000 is needed before Christmas or they will have to stop taking in animals.
Dr Christoph Schwitzer, director of conservation at Bristol Zoological Society said: “Unless conservation organisations intervene, these chicks will starve to death.
“As African penguin populations are currently facing a crisis due to a diminished food supply near their nesting colonies, there is a substantial risk that this species could eventually become extinct without action.”
Zoo staff in the UK, who are holding a number of events to raise the cash, asked bosses at John Lewis if they could support the cause last week.
They were told at the start of this week the company could not help because it gets a lot of requests and is currently supporting the WWF.
A spokeswoman for John Lewis said: “We receive a high number of charitable requests throughout the year and we are unfortunately unable to support all of these.
“This year for our Christmas advertising campaign we have partnered with WWF and all profit from the CD sales of the Christmas advert single, Real Love, is going towards their Adopt a Penguin programme.
“We passed our apologies to Bristol Zoo that we are unable to help on this occasion and wish them the best of luck with their campaign.”
To donate to the Bristol Zoological Society’s penguin appeal, visit: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fund/penguinappeal