Covid 19: Chester Zoo on BRINK of collapse

Chester Zoo's future has been thrown into doubt after the Government has ordered the attraction to remain closed "indefinitely".

Chester Zoo and several other animal attractions across the country have been closed since the coronavirus lockdown was implemented in March. The Government has started to ease the lockdown restrictions in Britain with garden centres opening and groups of up to six people able to meet up in public and outdoor private spaces. 

The UK’s biggest zoo revealed the coronavirus pandemic has already cost the wildlife charity a massive £5m which could force its gates to remain closed “indefinitely”.

The zoo’s statement reads: “Zoo bosses say they have been told by government representatives to prepare for their gates to remain closed 'indefinitely', despite being 'Covid secure' and able to safely limit numbers and enforce social distancing rules – something that public UK beaches, parks and other beauty spots cannot do.”

In total, visitor revenue makes up 97 percent of its income and therefore the closure of the zoo has had a devastating impact on business.

The zoo’s 35,000 animals cost £465,000 a month to care for, but additional outgoings for utilities, insurance and more means the zoo needs £1.6m a month to survive.

Chester Zoo’s chief operating officer Jamie Christon said: “As the UK’s biggest and most popular charity zoo, we’ve tried to stay positive during this pandemic. 

“Our conservationists have continued to prevent extinction, our virtual days have cheered up the nation, and our learning resources have helped out thousands of homeschooling families. 

“We wanted to remain a beacon of hope. 

“But now, the government has ordered us to stay closed indefinitely and Chester Zoo is very much fighting for its future.

“This change in law has flicked a switch for us and, heartbreakingly, our lights are now flickering.

“Not being able to open, despite being a huge outdoor site with all the necessary safety measures in place, is having a devastating impact of the future survival of this much-loved charity zoo.

“We’re heading towards debt in excess of £24m by the end of 2020 – this will financially cripple us.

“We absolutely refuse to cut corners when it comes to caring for the animals.

“But ensuring that each and every one of the 35,000 animals at the zoo is receiving the best possible care, every single day, comes at a huge financial cost.

“Not being able to open, with such massive outgoings, puts the future of the zoo itself at risk of extinction.”

Some National Trust sites and other businesses have started to reopen this week, however, zoos remain closed.

Mr Christon said: “Our 128 acres of gardens have to remain closed.

“It’s possible we’ll be given permission to open our indoor retail shop later this month, but not our massive outdoor site.

“While we support the need to carefully lift the lockdown, we’re under enormous financial pressure and these things don’t stack up.”

London Zoo has also warned it may be forced to close permanently as despite furloughing 280 staff and cutting salaries of others, it still costs £2.3m a month to feed and care for all the animals.

Zoos around the world have reported animals have become “lonely” without visitors.

Dublin Zoo said animals were ‘wondering what’s happened to everyone’ after closing to the public six weeks ago.

New Zealand animal care manager Joanne Thomas of Wellington Zoo said meerkats and otters, which are naturally curious animals, were keenly aware that there have been no visitors.

He added dingos had to be taken to see other animals at the zoo to give them something to do.