20 July 2020
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A message from the CEO

“Covid-19 has had a significant and unexpected impact on the zoo, as it has with many other charities and organisations, throughout the UK and indeed all around the world. This is by far the worst crisis this zoo has ever faced, and hopefully ever will face.

“Following three months of closure which stripped us of our main income stream, ticket sales, and with us not able to access the UK Government Zoo Fund which is aimed at smaller zoos, a huge £5m hole has been left in the finances of our charity zoo. This is despite the overwhelming volume of donations and incredible actions of those fundraising on our behalf, and the support we have received from our members, for which we are entirely grateful for and which has made a big difference to us.

“We have already made full use of the Government’s job retention scheme, frozen external recruitment, slashed all departmental budgets and halted all future development projects as we sought every possible way of reducing costs. Recently, we also completed a voluntary release scheme, with 36 people choosing to take the opportunity to leave the zoo on this basis. We are extremely grateful to those people for opting to do so in these incredibly difficult times.

“We hoped this scheme would be enough to prevent us from having to make additional steps and, while it has undoubtedly helped us, it’s with huge regret that we have to further streamline our charity, in order to make more vital savings, and allow us to come out of this terrible pandemic as strongly as we possibly can. It’s with a heavy heart that the roles of 45 staff members are therefore at risk of redundancy. We’ll now be entering a period of meaningful consultation and the zoo’s employee representatives (staff association) will be involved every step of the way, to help and support those involved and to collectively explore and consider other options, such as alternative employment and reduced hours.

“This is a horrible situation and never did we think it would come to having to make redundancies. It’s certainly not something that we ever wanted to do but, unfortunately, we have to act to try to protect the long term future of our much-loved charity and to continue to prevent the extinction of endangered species.”

– Dr Mark Pilgrim, Chief Executive Officer, Chester Zoo