Bristol Zoological Society forced to make staff redundant

Bristol Zoological Society has announced that a number of posts are at risk of being made redundant due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Society, which runs Bristol Zoo Gardens and its sister site Wild Place Project, has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The forced closure of both its sites, during much of the peak season, has had a significant impact on the Society’s financial situation.

 Bristol Zoological Society is due to make a multi-million-pound loss this year after closing its two attractions in March and then reopening with reduced visitor numbers to meet social distancing requirements and to keep visitors, staff and volunteers safe. These measures are likely to continue to be in place for the foreseeable future, with an ongoing detrimental impact on the Society’s finances.

The Society continues to be unable to take advantage of the Government’s Zoo Animals Fund, which only provides relief for zoos with no more than 12 weeks of funding remaining, meaning that the Society does not meet the eligibility criteria. 

Unfortunately, this means that 35 roles are at risk of redundancy with a period of formal consultation now underway.

Dr Justin Morris, CEO of Bristol Zoological Society, said: “There is little doubt that this year has been by far the most challenging year that the Society has ever faced in its 185-year history.

“Like many in the tourism sector, we rely on the spring and summer months to generate much-needed income to support our work for the entire year. Despite reopening our two attractions in the summer after prolonged closures, we limited our visitor capacity on site to maintain social distancing and to ensure the safety of our visitors, staff and volunteers.  

“This meant we have been unable to make up the huge shortfall in income lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic and we are currently facing a multi-million-pound loss for 2020. With limits on visitor numbers likely to be in place during 2021 also, we will continue to feel the impact of Coronavirus for the foreseeable future.   

“Our fixed costs are high. The expense of caring for our animals is considerable. We continue to run our conservation breeding programmes as well as our conservation field projects across four continents. This work is now more important than ever before in a world where humans and wildlife are increasingly struggling to co-exist.

“We made use of the Government’s furlough scheme, however this is now ending and we were not able to benefit from the Government’s Zoo Support Fund due to the financial reserves that we had in place as a registered charity. However, we have been genuinely humbled by the heartfelt messages of support, and donations to our fundraising appeal, from our visitors, members, and the general public – but whilst generous, and valued, this is not enough to sustain us.

“We are now facing even more uncertainty and pressure, at a time when we, like others, are having to operate under very challenging circumstances. Redundancies have always been a last resort, but sadly it has now become inevitable, and we would like to pay tribute to our excellent and committed colleagues.

“I would like to thank all who have supported Bristol Zoological Society throughout this difficult period and continue to do so. This support is more important than ever before to help safeguard the future of Bristol Zoological Society, and our internationally important conservation work.”

To find out more about Bristol Zoological Society’s fundraising appeal, or other ways you can support the Society, please visit bristolzoo.org.uk/save-wildlife/bristol-zoological-society-appeal.

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