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Bristol Zoological Society welcomes additional funding for zoos but is disappointed by the likely limits of the scheme
Bristol Zoological Society has expressed its disappointment at the proposed financial limit on applications to the £100m rescue package announced by the Government.
A number of large charity zoos from across England have been in discussion with DEFRA since March and have been advised that applications to the funding are likely to be capped at a relatively low level.
Dr Justin Morris, the chief executive of Bristol Zoological Society, said: “Whilst on the surface, DEFRA’s announcement appears to be a very positive step forward, our understanding is that this ‘solution’ is a scheme that it seems we will not have any significant positive impact for larger charitable zoos.
“If this is the case this will be a disappointing outcome for us and for many of our colleagues at other large zoos.
“No responsible charitable zoo can allow itself to be in a position of only having a few weeks of funding available and significant reductions in expenditure through redundancies and reducing the size of the collection will have had to have taken place long before this.
“While this is a step in the right direction and will be of huge relief to many smaller zoos and aquariums, we urgently call on the Government to work with us on revisiting the criteria for this fund to truly help save our nation's larger charitable zoos.”
Bristol Zoological Society has previously warned that it may not fully recover from the effects of having to close its two sites due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In May the Zoo Support Fund was announced by the Government, and provided relief for smaller zoos, but larger zoos, including Bristol Zoo and Wild Place Project, were not eligible to receive any of this funding as funds were limited to £100k per zoo.
Wild Place Project re-opened to the public on June 19 after a 13-week closure, and staff at the Society are now working hard behind the scenes to prepare Bristol Zoo for re-opening in the coming weeks.
Dr Morris added: “Like any responsible charity we had financial reserves in place to mitigate against the immediate effects of being closed and have made the most of the Government measures to offset costs.
“But there is only so much we can do. Despite re-opening one of our two sites, we are only welcoming a fraction of our usual visitor numbers and the financial situation is still hugely challenging.
“We have a living collection of animals to continue to care for and all of the costs associated with that. We cannot furlough all of our staff and we must also ensure that our sites are secure and maintained.
“The reality is that the cash has now run out and this continues to be an incredibly challenging time for us.
“We are hugely grateful for the support and donations we have received from members, supporters and partners. Our fundraising appeal continues and is now more critical than ever.
“As a charity, our mission is ‘Saving Wildlife Together’. We have been doing this for 185 years and we want to be able to continue doing so for our future generations.”
Bristol Zoological Society has a world-wide reputation for being at the forefront of conservation breeding, science, education and research, and its two zoos are among the region’s most important visitor attractions.
Bristol Zoo Gardens was founded in 1835 and shareholders at the time included several famous Bristolians, such as Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Over the past 185 years the Zoo has inspired generations of visitors with the value of wildlife.
In 2013 Bristol Zoological Society opened its second zoo, Wild Place Project, in South Gloucestershire, which last year welcomed more than 317,000 visitors to its 130-acre site. Together Bristol Zoo and Wild Place welcomed more than 800,000 visitors in 2019.
The Society is involved in 93 co-ordinated breeding programmes for threatened wildlife species and directs 14 field conservation projects in 10 countries that conserve and protect some of the world’s most endangered species.
In March Bristol Zoological Society launched an appeal to ensure the future of its work ‘saving wildlife together’. The Society, which is a registered charity, has launched the BZS Appeal following the temporary closure of both its sites in Bristol in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.
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