Why ZSL Whipsnade Zoo needs you now more than ever!
- Credit: ZSL
With zoos missing out on opening for the crucial Easter holidays period, the financial pressure on our own Whipsnade has reached crisis levels.
Chief operating officer Owen Craft spoke exclusively to this newspaper about the challenges they are facing and why public support is essential to secure their future.
"We need your help. We are facing our own fight for survival. When our doors closed, the funding stops. Every ticket to visit our zoo helps to fund our work around the world but also here, right on our doorstep, with the wildlife that calls ZSL home.
"As I write this in early March, we’re working towards a reopening date of April 12 – and while we cannot wait to fling open the gates and welcome our supporters back, we’re refraining from getting too excited just yet – if we’ve learned anything in the past year, it’s that a lot can change in a month, so we’re taking each day as it comes.
"But you can rest assured that we’re ready. We’ve got our tried and tested safety measures in place, miles and miles of outdoor space and a team of people who cannot wait to welcome you back."
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He elaborated on the toll the pandemic has taken on Whipsnade: "It’s not secret that this last year has been incredibly tough for us, in fact it’s been devastating. As a charity working to care for wildlife around the world, we’ve keenly felt the pressures of lockdown and its knock-on effect.
"The repeated lockdown closures have stripped us of our core income, but we have also really felt the absence of our visitors.
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"One of the most important things we aim to do at Whipsnade is to create the conservationists of the future. We know a love for animals can be sparked by making eye-contact with an elephant, or that a future biologist can be inspired by seeing a lion prowling through the grass – it’s a fact that many of my colleagues visited Whipsnade as children and were inspired by our animals and the people they met here to do their jobs today.
"The dedication and passion of our team has shone through this year, proving just how much they love the zoo, and so has the loyalty of our visitors and supporters. We wouldn’t be where we are today without their ongoing help.
"Although this has certainly not been a ‘normal’ year, our teams have continued to deliver ZSL’s crucial conservation efforts every day."
Despite the challenges that 2020 threw at them, the zoo's keepers and vets ensured the animals still received their world class care – animal moves took place while they were allowed, and new conservation breeding groups were established.
"We were delighted to welcome many new arrivals at Whipsnade, boosting numbers of threatened species, including some which are extinct in the wild.
"We continued to provide inspiration and education to our supporters of all ages – sprinkled with a healthy dose of fun, of course. Home-schoolers have access to our wealth of education resources online at zsl.org/zooschool while our animals have even paid remote ‘visits’ to care homes to bring some smiles to those separated from loved ones."
Owen added: "The past year has taught us a lot, it’s made us more resilient and strengthened the relationships between us, the schools and communities we support. Whipsnade Zoo truly is a nature haven, where people can connect with wildlife and be inspired by the astonishing world around us."
Whipsnade is supporting BIAZA, the British Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and urging the government to provide emergency aid by opening up the restrictive Zoo Animal Fund, £93 million of which remains unspent, and create an accessible Zoo Recovery Fund.
There are many ways you can help Whipsnade's future. You can become a member, shop for your loved ones at their online shop, donate at zsl.org or visit once they've reopened.