Zoos around the UK are warning that their futures are stake, and they may not recover if they are not allowed to open again soon.
Although zoos have been struggling since the coronavirus pandemic hit the UK, they are speaking out now following the government’s announcement last week that zoos, safari parks and aquariums must remain closed.
MPs will be taking part in a parliamentary debate on Thursday, following a request from the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
“We have now reached a point where the future of zoos, including Bristol Zoo Gardens, is seriously at stake. Our staff, volunteers, visitors and supporters are outraged and perplexed at this decision,” says Dr Dr Justin Morris, chief executive of Bristol Zoological Society which runs both Bristol Zoo Gardens and its sister attraction, Wild Place Project.
“We are watching other venues and shops re-opening and it is absolutely heart-breaking that we are not allowed to welcome our visitors back as well. We simply can’t believe this is happening.”
Many zoos have been struggling financially since the lockdown started, as they need to continue caring for their animals and many staff, such as zookeepers and vets, cannot be furloughed, whilst missing out on the money they would normally gain through entrance fees and retail shopping.
“Through our zoos we care for and preserve thousands of threatened species – some of which are extinct-in-the-wild and many of which only survive because of zoos, we educate millions of people about biodiversity, and inspire them to take action, and we fund our international science and conservation projects around the world,” says Dominic Jermey, director general of the Zoological Society of London which runs ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.
“We’re ready to reopen – safely and responsibly. We hope the government is ready to make the right decision.”
Main image: Giraffe House with NHS sign. © ZSL London Zoo