Today we have announced that if our zoos do not reopen soon, the Zoological Society of East Anglia could collapse. We have welcomed the announcement that there’ll be a debate in parliament on 11 June about the crisis facing zoos and representatives from ZSEA will today (5 June) meet DEFRA officials to make the case for the ongoing viability of zoos.
We are being supported by the local Members of Parliament for both zoos, Peter Aldous, Member of Parliament for Waveney in Suffolk and Elizabeth Truss, Member of Parliament for South West Norfolk. Both MPs have been lobbying the Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock MP and DEFRA Secretary of State George Eustice. Local council leaders are also supporting the zoo with a request for a re-opening as soon as possible.
Claudia Roberts, Managing Director, Commercial, says: “We are incredibly frustrated and disappointed by the ambiguity of the Government in allowing places like garden centres, parks, shops and beaches to reopen and not zoos. Africa Alive and Banham Zoo are in spacious open parkland. They’re in a controlled environment and we’ve invested to get everything safe and ready for visitors to return. If we can’t re-open in July, it could finish us. Garden centres could put plants in the bin, but what would we and all other zoos across the country be expected to do with our animals if we had to close?”
The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs are holding meetings with zoo CEO’s this week and all zoos are calling for clarity on the date for their reopening.
The Zoological Society of East Anglia Chairman, Gerard Smith, says: “Both zoos were turned down for the Government zoo grants of £100,000 because the rules were that they were only for zoos who had less than six weeks of cashflow and at the time we had 10 weeks of cash. The welfare of animals is the highest priority and we’d never want to let the zoos get to such a cliff edge, but that was then and the reality right now is that we are edging towards that cliff edge every day.”
A bank loan which the charity secured for £900,000 has a repayment plan over six years although it had asked for it over 25 years. The loan was based on the zoos reopening from June but if reopening is delayed until August it will not survive. It desperately needs income from admissions or additional funds and is now trying to renegotiate the loan and apply for further funds.
ZSEA announced last week that it had already experienced a loss of income of £1.5 million since Africa Alive and Banham Zoo closed due to Covid-19 in March. It has already announced a major cost cutting programme, with a proposed restructure of the charity. A consultation is underway with the charity’s 201 employees with a view to reducing the size of the team by up to a third in order to be sustainable.
To donate to our charity please visit the Zoological Society of East Anglia’s new Just Giving donation page.