Our Appeal for Urgent Review of Government Enforced Closure

We have issued a stark warning that ​Bristol Zoological Society may not recover from the effects of an enforced closure imposed by the government.

Last week the government announced a change in the law that stated that zoos, including Bristol Zoo Gardens and our sister attraction, Wild Place Project in south Gloucestershire, must remain closed.

The imposed closures have sparked outrage from zoos across the UK and now our chief executive, Dr Justin Morris, has hit back at the “ridiculous and shocking” decision.

It comes as MPs prepare to discuss the issue in a parliamentary debate on Thursday at the request of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Dr Justin Morris said: “We have now reached a point where the future of zoos, including Bristol Zoo Gardens, is seriously at stake. Our staff, volunteers, visitors and supporters are outraged and perplexed at this decision.

“We are watching other venues and shops re-opening and it is absolutely heart-breaking that we are not allowed to welcome our visitors back as well. We simply can’t believe this is happening.

“We must do everything we can to secure the future of the oldest zoo in the world outside a capital city and all of the extraordinary good that it does for people and wildlife.”

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.

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. 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 the longer we remain closed to the public, the greater the challenges we will face returning to full capacity in the future.

“July and August are peak times for the Society and remaining closed during these months would mean £2.6m in vital income, lost forever. The prospect of continuing to be closed at that time is unthinkable.

“For this reason it makes absolutely no sense to have added zoos to the list of businesses forced by the Government to close when other outdoor attractions are allowed to re-open.

“But this is also about more than finances. We know that many people are desperate to get outdoors and into the fresh air.

“We have been working tirelessly to implement a range of additional health and safety measures and we know that we can offer somewhere to visit that is safe, responsible and well managed.

“Meanwhile, we are continuing to work with Defra and other zoos, seeking alternative sources of funding and looking at different ways of delivering our mission.

“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 continue doing so for our future generations.”

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. 

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.

Bristol Zoological Society recently 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.

To find out more, or to make a donation, visit our appeal page.

Bristol Zoological Society is urging everyone to contact their local MP and press the government to allow Zoos to re-open using the following link: https://biaza.org.uk/news/detail/yourzoosneedyou-.

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