04 August 2020

 

Update (16/11/2020)

We welcome news that the application deadline for the Government’s Zoo Animals Fund has been extended. This is something we and other charity zoos have been calling for. However, since the fund was expanded back in August, only three grants have been awarded and little over £2 million of the £100 million pot has been spent. This is because the eligibility criteria is far too restrictive and the ambition of the funding too limited. It effectively requires a zoo to be on the verge of bankruptcy before it can access any funding, while any support for our vital conservation and education work – the reason we exist – is completely excluded. We urge the Government to use this extended timeframe as an opportunity to rethink and to make the changes required to ensure the money is put to good use and doesn’t go to waste.

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OUR STATEMENT ON THE ZOO ANIMALS FUND – AUGUST 2020

While the announcement of the Government’s Zoo Animals Fund is welcome news for some zoos and aquariums, the £100m fund is again not applicable to all large charity zoos, including Chester Zoo. We find ourselves in the exact same situation as when the £100m Emergency Zoo Fund was announced previously, and the £14m Zoo Fund prior to that. We have no access to these funds and so we must continue to rely on the goodwill, compassion and amazing support of the public to Save Our Zoo.

As we’ve said many times, we are, of course, pleased to see some financial support for the zoo and aquarium sector. But, as we have also said many times, Chester Zoo is again not able to benefit given the current parameters that have been applied to the fund. Our mission to prevent extinction therefore remains at risk.

The Government has said it is continuing to talk to large zoos like us to explore ways of supporting us and our vital efforts to prevent extinction. But still there is nothing on the table. After significant time spent in lengthy, and what have been seemingly very positive discussions with Government representatives for several months, this is extremely disappointing for us. As a leading conservation and education charity of global importance, the aims of our species-saving conservation work, of our ground-breaking scientific research and of our vital education programmes in the UK and around the world, are broadly aligned with the Government’s own environmental objectives. So why aren’t they supporting us?

The Government has recognised the high running costs of caring for animals at zoos across the country. But it must also understand the far-reaching and long-term implications of COVID-19 on our critical work to protect threatened species globally.

For the zoos and aquariums that are able to benefit, the speed at which these funds are being disseminated to the places that desperately need it must urgently increase. Only just over £2m has been spent so far. It would be awful to think that these funds are in fact designed to do nothing more than achieve positive headlines for the Government. But what else is the point of announcing £100m of funding if zoos still can’t access it?

We urgently call on the Government to make changes to the scheme and ensure financial help also reaches large charity zoos. Currently, with no tailored funding or support from the Government, we will need to continue our fundraising efforts whilst opening to limited visitor numbers – once again relying on the incredible actions of the public to Save our Zoo.

 

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