- UK Government has announced £100 million for zoos and aquariums in England, after months of lobbying
- Design flaws mean just 5 zoos have managed to access the fund
- Zoos, aquariums & safari parks have lost millions of pounds over the pandemic putting jobs, conservation and research work at risk
- A cross party group of MPs have demanded action from the animal-loving Prime Minister in an open letter
15 Parliamentarians, including former Cabinet Ministers, have demanded the Prime Minister intervenes to support zoos, aquariums and safari parks through the coronavirus pandemic in an open letter to Downing Street. Led by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Zoos and Aquariums, the group call for an urgent replacement to the Government’s Zoo Animals Fund which it says has failed to support much of the sector. As part of the call, Chairman of the APPG Andrew Rosindell has offered an invitation to the Prime Minister to see for himself the impact of the pandemic on zoos.
At present the £100m Zoo Animals Fund has supported just five zoo licence holders (zoos, aquariums or safari parks), out of more than 300 in England. The deadline to apply for the fund was last week extended to the 29th of January, from an initial deadline of the 16th of November.
Restrictive eligibility criteria, specifically that zoos must be down to their last 12 weeks of reserves before receiving a grant from the scheme, means the fund has effectively excluded the vast majority of zoos. This criterion has been widely recognised as deeply inappropriate for zoos and aquariums. Most zoos would already be taking steps to close having reached 12 weeks, as it takes months if not years to find and move some of the world’s most incredible animals to suitable homes. National institutions such as ZSL London and Chester Zoos are among those who simply cannot allow themselves to reach that point.
The open letter submitted to the Prime Minister says only ringfencing the largely unspent fund and replacing the Zoo Animals Fund will now help. Government has shown no indication that they plan to do either.
Earlier this year a campaign to reopen zoos and safari parks closed under lockdown gained thousands of public supporters who shared astonishment that they could visit a garden centre but they could not support the care of endangered species – care which continues regardless of whether zoos are open. In lockdown zoos have been educating thousands more through their social media channels, helping people learn and connect with nature.
The APPG says that zoos should be among the first places to reopen out of the current lockdown as they still have to care for their animals.
Zoos, aquariums and safari parks have been hit harder than most through this pandemic. The high costs of excellent animal care, and being unable to furlough keepers means zoos have had to cut spending in vital areas such as education and conservation.
Andrew Rosindell M.P., chair of the APPG for Zoos and Aquariums said:
“We are in an astonishing place where a £100m support fund has been established and yet zoos that need help cannot access this money. This fund is inadequate and flawed. The Government has been told this for months. We should not have had to get to this position. It is imperative the Prime Minister steps in.
We are facing an extinction crisis and need zoos like never before. The Prime Minister should join me and see for himself why this important work needs to be supported by the funding Government is apparently happy to spend.”