Whipsnade Zoo hoping to reopen next week if government relaxes lockdown
- Credit: Archant
Whipsnade Zoo is ready to open its gates after three months of lockdown, but finances are stretched to the limit.
Responding to news that the government is set to announce that zoos can re-open in line with the latest easing of lockdown, ZSL director general, Dominic Jermey, said: “We are delighted at the news that the government may allow ZSL Whipsnade Zoo to reopen as early as next week.
“Thousands of members of the public have written to their MPs to express their faith in the zoo’s safety measures and their concern for ZSL’s continued survival - we are grateful for everyone’s support - we can’t wait to welcome visitors through our gates as soon as we are able.
“As we explained in detail to government, we have redesigned our zoos, set in acres of parkland, to make them COVID-secure. Our zoos will look, feel and be safe, with a whole range of measures introduced, including additional handwashing facilities and sanitiser stations across our zoos, fun and engaging way finders, 2m distance markers laid out in exhibits and one-way routes introduced to manage the flow of visitors safely.
“Both ZSL London and Whipsnade Zoos are open-air spaces accessible by car, bike or on foot and offer vital opportunities for people to safely enjoy the outdoors in the heart of their communities - both have made extensive alterations to accommodate social distancing while still providing a wonderful day out.
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“We are waiting to hear more details from the government, but our zoos are raring to go as soon as we are given the go-ahead.
“We expect to have tickets ready to book by Friday - and everyone will need to book so we can manage capacity. We hope the support we’ve seen so far for our zoos translates to visitors coming in to support us further.”
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He added: “But re-opening the zoos cannot be the end of the story. After being closed for so many months, reopening ZSL’s zoos will by no means be an instant fix: as an international conservation charity which relies heavily on zoo ticket sales to fund our vital work, we will still urgently need support to keep our two zoos running smoothly, our scientists investigating wildlife diseases such as COVID-19, and our conservationists working in the field to protect critically endangered species.”
ZSL Whipsnade Zoo has experienced massive revenue losses as a result of the COVID-19 restrictions. It costs the zoo £500,000 a year to care for their herd of Asian elephants alone and ZSL says it could be forced to close permanently because the coronavirus crisis is costing it around £2.3million every month.
Whipsnade needs a £25m cash injection just to stay afloat. With key staff still working at the zoo to ensure the continued care and welfare of the animals, 280 staff have been furloughed.
This government scheme is controlling some element of the hardship faced but the centre still has high costs - which are continuing as normal - including vet bills, food and heating.
The zoo was established in 1931 as a one-of-a-kind open-range environment where animals could roam in their natural habitat.
Spanning 600 acres, the site is the largest zoo in the UK and is a long-standing centre in the heart of the community; popular with families, schools and visitors from across the globe.
You can help by buying - or renewing - your annual membership, making a one-off donation or setting up a monthly direct debit.
Find out more at www.zsl.org/donate