ZSL London and Whipsnade Zoo call for government U-turn on zoo closures

International conservation charity behind Britain’s world-renowned zoos urges UK government to let them open

London and Whipsnade Zoos are urging the government to let them open their gates – or face the permanent closure of the two iconic zoos.  

The two world-famous zoos, part of international conservation charity ZSL, are facing the threat of closure if the government’s illogical decision to keep zoos shut isn’t overturned this week.

An adjournment debate in UK parliament has been scheduled for Thursday 11 June about the crisis facing zoos, safari parks and aquariums, who have been forced to remain closed while watching car showrooms, furniture stores and off-licenses open to hordes of people.

With strictly limited capacities, one-way routes, new signage, and increased hand washing facilities among just some of the measures put in place, ZSL’s Zoos have worked tirelessly to provide a safe day out in spacious environments, where people of all ages can reap the benefits of time spent with nature. The zoos have demonstrated their readiness to reopen, it’s time for the government to demonstrate their readiness to act.

Zookeeper in mask with lion behind him lays 2m distancing sign on floor

Closed since March 21st, for the longest period of time in their almost 200-year history, ZSL’s zoos are reliant on income from visitors to not only care for their animals but fund their global science and conservation projects. This prolonged, and unjust, closure means they are now heading towards a financial crisis. 

Having already turned to banks and the government for financial support, ZSL has been in a catch-22 predicament; not able to qualify for the government’s zoo fund and turned down for a bank loan as ZSL did not meet the criteria for the CLBILS scheme, income has dwindled while costs have continued to mount – it costs in the region of £1million a month for animal care alone.

Andrew Rosindell MP, chair of the ‘All Party Parliamentary Group’ for zoos and aquariums has championed Thursday’s debate – he has spoken up for zoos and aquariums and now it’s time for all MPs to do the same. 

ZSL Director General Dominic Jermey said: “ZSL is a global conservation force to be reckoned with – and ZSL London and Whipsnade Zoo are essential parts of what makes ZSL a national institution.

“We’ve been vocal with our need for support since our doors were closed – launching a fundraising campaign and appealing to government, banks and individuals for help. Unlike shops, museums and pubs, we couldn’t just shut the gates, press pause, and wait for the green light to return. Our zookeepers, veterinary teams and facilities teams have continued to come to work every day to ensure our precious animals remain healthy and cared for – and that costs money. 

“Thursday’s adjournment debate is a much-welcomed step in the right direction, it shows zoos are being heard - but we need the help of our public and their MPs to ensure that zoos can re-open. We urge you all to write to your MPs and ask them to attend the debate and to support ZSL and our zoos. We’re ready to reopen – safely and responsibly.  We hope the government is ready to make the right decision.”

ZSL Director General, Dominic Jermey

Working alongside BIAZA (British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums) and other leading zoos, ZSL is imploring MPs to attend the debate, and make the rational case for zoos to reopen. 

Jermey added: “Through our zoos we care for and preserve thousands of threatened species – some of which are extinct-in-the-wild and many of which only survive because of zoos, we educate millions of people about biodiversity, and inspire them to take action, and we fund our international science and conservation projects around the world.”

Andrew Selous MP for South West Bedfordshire has publicly stated his support for ZSL Whipsnade Zoo: “It is unthinkable to me that we could lose Whipsnade and its global conservation and research work must continue as well.

“We are now in the last chance saloon for Whipsnade. Unless there is a cash injection urgently, we could lose both of the zoos and all the vital work they do around the world. At a time when we are losing species faster than we have ever done and we need to value nature more than ever this would be an unmitigated disaster.

“I continue to lobby the Government on this issue and have today re-joined Whipsnade as a member even though it is currently closed. I will be attending the debate in Parliament next Thursday and will continue to talk to Ministers about the urgency of the situation. It is not right that National Trust and other gardens are now open, welcome though that is, while zoos remain closed.”

The public is being urged to visit campaign.zsl.org/savezslzoos/ to write a letter to their MP, and to share their support for zoos on social media using #YourZoosNeedYou.

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