Zoos, aquariums, and similar organisations across the country carry out all sorts of conservation work, animal rescue, and public education. At the start of the season most rely on visitors (who now won't come) to cover annual costs, yet those costs do not stop while they are closed. They need help.
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If zoos are forced to close there may be nowhere to rehouse the animals since all zoos are in the same position. Some zoos have set up charity funding pages, but with many people on reduced incomes (or zero income for many self-employed) while they self-isolate there is little hope of all zoos recouping the sort of money they need, even to keep a skeleton staff on to feed and care for the animals. Only a significant grant from government can prevent a disaster.
The outdoor areas of zoos can now reopen. Government financial support schemes are available to zoos, including the Zoos Support Fund. We are keeping the situation under close review.
The Government recognises that organisations such as zoos, aquariums and animal welfare charities are working tirelessly during this challenging time to safeguard the health and welfare needs of animals in their care. The Government also recognises that many of these organisations in the UK, as well as providing high welfare standards for their animals, contribute significantly to both conservation work and education, helping both sustain endangered species but also teaching people about animals’ natural habitats - as well as how at risk that species may be.
As announced by the Prime Minister on 10 June, outdoor animal attractions, including safari parks, the outdoor parts of zoos and animal attractions on farms, are now open following strict social distancing guidelines. This includes keeping indoor exhibitions, such as reptile houses and those in aquariums, closed, and ensuring other amenities like cafes offer take-away services only.
The move follows close work by the Government with the zoo industry to ensure visitor numbers can be managed and safeguards are put in place. Allowing zoos to reopen is an integral step towards supporting an early financial recovery.
The decision to relax restrictions on these select outdoor attractions is part of the Government’s careful approach to easing the lockdown in phases, guided by the advice of scientific and medical experts and the fact the risk of transmission is much lower outdoors.
A number of schemes have been made available to businesses and charities to help them during this emergency. Organisations are eligible to apply for a range of support schemes including the Job Retention Scheme, VAT deferral, Business Rates Relief, the Business Interruption Loan schemes, the option to reclaim the costs of Statutory Sick Pay and grant funding of up to £25,000.
The Government launched a Zoos Support Fund on 4 May worth £14 million in direct response to the concerns raised by zoos and aquariums as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Licensed zoos or aquariums in England that are experiencing severe financial difficulties because of lost revenue can apply for a grant of up to £100,000. The fund is intended to help zoos at immediate risk to protect the welfare of animals living on site or by rehoming.
The funding is available to cover animal-care costs that cannot be lowered such as keepers’ wages, animal feed and bedding and veterinary care and medicines.
Defra wrote to all licensed zoos in England on 21 April to make them aware of the coronavirus support schemes available as well as the new Zoo Support Fund.
We are aware of the concerns raised by larger zoos. Defra continues to engage with the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) and Her Majesty’s Treasury (HMT) to monitor how zoos are doing. Officials continue to meet regularly with some of the major zoos and aquariums in England to identify the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on larger organisations. This includes monitoring concerns around potential implications for animal welfare. Consideration of proposals for any longer-term support that might be needed for the sector is ongoing. With the help and support of the industry, Defra is working diligently to find the best way forward.
The importance of allowing zoos to reopen was also debated in the House of Commons on 11 June in the adjournment debate on the reopening of zoos, aquariums and wildlife sanctuaries.
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
|Constituency Signatures||% of Total Signatures||MP||Party-Constituency|
|1,710||1.27%||Peter Aldous|| Conservative
|1,175||0.87%||Dr Luke Evans|| Conservative
|1,118||0.83%||Andrew Selous|| Conservative
South West Bedfordshire
|993||0.74%||Christopher Pincher|| Conservative
|957||0.71%||Andrew Bridgen|| Conservative
North West Leicestershire
|929||0.69%||Mrs Heather Wheeler|| Conservative
|916||0.68%||Brandon Lewis|| Conservative
|770||0.57%||Craig Tracey|| Conservative
|739||0.55%||Theo Clarke|| Conservative
|734||0.54%||Mr Marcus Jones|| Conservative
30,256 signatures - 22.0% of total