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Chester Zoo and coronavirus

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A family of 4 meerkats standing up in a row


There has been coverage today on BBC Breakfast, Daily Mail and the I focussed on Chester Zoo and the impact of being closed during the coronavirus pandemic.

Last month, the government announced a £14 million support fund which has been widely taken up by smaller zoos to help cover costs relating to animal keeping such as feed, heating and security. Defra has been and will continue to engage with some of the larger zoos to discuss their concerns around reopening and the need for further funding. These discussions are ongoing.

Defra has been engaging with the main industry association, the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA), and with individual zoos about the best way forward, and taking expert advice from Defra’s Zoos Expert Committee.

A Defra spokesperson said:

We understand the challenges faced by zoos and aquariums during these unprecedented times but it’s vital that we do not move too quickly in reopening to ensure public health is protected.

We have provided a £14 million support fund to ensure zoos are able to continue to care for their animals. Alongside this, work is ongoing to understand how and when zoos and aquariums may be able to reopen in a safe way to the public whilst maintaining social distancing.

Zoos are eligible to apply for a range of support schemes including the £14 million Zoos Support Fund, business rates relief, the business interruption loan scheme, and the job retention scheme. This is additional to other available relief such as VAT deferral.

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  1. Comment by Andrew Gray posted on

    Such a shame you now bowed to some public and media opinion..

    Give the people what they want, and they will love you for it (Commodus, 2000) ??

    Perhaps in this case they might not.

  2. Comment by Adrian posted on

    I am upset to here that the government is delaying the opening of Zoos.
    It makes sense for the zoos to open as soon as possible using a booking system, so they can control the amount of people visiting. They will be able to put measures in place to help keep social distancing. And will be able to learn form their experiences to improve on access, health and safety. After all this virus could be with us for some time.

    Sadly we are lumbered with over bureaucratic politicians who don't live in the real world. Defra has shown itself to be a mess when it came to the Foot and Mouth epidemic. I'm from a rural background and feel Defra should be disbanded.

    By opening the zoos the management teams from all the parks and zoos and other places could work together to provide info on how to best manage the situation. After all the government has show its not fit to do that.

    Please allow them to open. Allow them to work with you to find the best way forward.
    Get it wrong and Zoos close for good. We will remember it when we next vote.

  3. Comment by Laura Chester posted on

    I really don’t understand why they can’t open if they have the correct precautions in place and have ticketed time slots like National Trust gardens. They could keep any indoor enclosures closed to the public. How can we go to Matalan and Primark, rummaging through clothes rails, but not go to a zoo where you could easily not touch a thing during your entire visit? Really, really frustrating.

  4. Comment by Jenny Ackers posted on

    Please can someone with "common sense" from this department explain the decision to keep Zoos closed!!!!! Chester Zoo (and many others) will not survive without immediate action. We are members of the Zoo and a few weeks ago they messaged with their action plan for re-opening when they are allowed to and from all the information they gave I would consider their actions to be completely safe for Covid 19 regulations. How can you be allowed to go to a beach where there is no way of restricting numbers or imposing social distancing but the Zoo which can restrict numbers and will be ensuring social distancing not be allowed to re-open!!!!! What is the government going to do if the Zoo fails? What will happen to the animals and how will the government cope with the outcry if animals have to be put down if there is no other option!!!!!

  5. Comment by Mike Davies posted on

    I'm still very confused. Why are zoo's deemed unsafe to reopen? If they follow government guidelines and put in 'said' safe restrictions. Yet allowing said Primark to open.. With no control over hundreds touching the on sale jumper is acceptable. A business that can be safely managed is refused right to open.. With as I see it no valid reason?

  6. Comment by Bob Painter posted on

    So this government would obviously be happy to see thousands of animals die from hunger or be put down rather than let zoos and safari parks re-open. Social distancing can very easily be achieved in zoos and do not visitors to safari parks travel through the animal enclosures in their cars?. If it is safe for shops schools car sales etc to open then what is your problem Boris? Get at least one priority right and let these animals be fed and live.

  7. Comment by Sue Woolnough posted on

    Utter ridiculous why zoos can’t open, Hyde Hall Park had 1500 visitors in one day, Betting Shops can open and will that mean people can gather and talk about how much their horse lost etc etc! Carboots can open too how can they control social distance and stop picking items up? Small shops can open? and yet a vast wide open area like a zoo can’t and why do zoos have to wait on the R rate? when a bookmakers, small shops, carboots, demonstrations and they don’t have to worry about the R rate! Zoos are full of fresh air which I thought is what the scientists said was good for people and good for their mental health. Zoos can do exactly what the National Trust Parks are doing, so what’s the difference? Please open our zoos before they have gone forever or give them unconditional vast amounts of money to last them till Easter 2021 money they don’t have to pay back and money that they would have gained on the gates between March 2020 to March 2021 that’s the only way to save these zoos if you won’t let them open now.

  8. Comment by Dot Walker posted on

    In the press items about Chester Zoo, DEFRA kept referring to their £14 million pound fund. If I know that Chester doesn't qualify, you would think that they should.

  9. Comment by Helen Goldney posted on

    How the hell can a trip to Barnard Castle be ok, but a trip to the zoo not?!? Who is responsible for this farcical shambolic reasoning? Go to IKEA, go to the races, go for a drive to check your eyesight but forget going to the zoo! And we are asked to ignore and move on..... Utterly outrageous!!!!!

    • Replies to Helen Goldney>

      Comment by Louis posted on

      Absolutely agree. DEFRA, and the government as a whole, is an absolute shambles. Either they are using zoos as a distraction for people to channel their anger into, or they are in even more of a mess than we think, but if Primark is open and Zoos (open spaces with restrictions in place and easy to control) are not, we automatically know that our government is breaking down.

      If they want to be safe from a fresh flow of criticism, they should imitate other countries who have dealt with the virus well and open different things in the same order. Germany opened zoos weeks ago, and France opened theirs a week and a half ago while still having tight restrictions, while we are opening retail shops first where it is hard to control numbers and distancing and where the virus can easily be propagated through touching clothes etc. Meanwhile, zoos are open, safe spaces where virus propagation is unlikely.

  10. Comment by Gerry Luckhurst posted on

    With the recent confirmed culling of Dutch Mink who caught Coronavirus from Humans and in addition passed the disease to 2 Humans, could you please advise if the above has impacted on the decision not to open Zoo's and Farm Parks in the UK.

  11. Comment by Kay posted on

    Are we deliberately trying to get rid of all our wild animals? Sounds like it to me. Obviously zoos should be open and the fact that they are now 'closed indefinitely' sounds very suspicious to me. Obviously there are a lot of 'anti zoos and keeping wild animals amongst us' people in the Government. In this case not quite the "free country" we are supposed to be.

  12. Comment by Silken posted on

    The zoo is a sanctuary, It’s safety, far safer than an unregulated park or beach. It’s exercise, with miles of footpaths and elevations to walk. It’s education, surpassing any YouTube video or classroom fact sheet. It’s jobs and local economy, providing such a wide variety of experiences for all. It’s sustainability, in some cases the only way to make changes for the better. It’s mental health, providing a unique space where we can get lost in the moment...and I could go on and on. As long as distancing regulations and risk assessments are being enforced we should be welcoming as many spaces that we can to keep us healthy and a distance.

  13. Comment by Angela cormack posted on

    This is ludicrous. Cheshire Oaks is opening with the worst social distancing ! You are putting at risk the conservation of so many species and the work done across the globe. It will be on the governments hands if we start to see species go extinct in the future. This is bigger than the jobs being put at risk. Over 20 acres of land needs to be cared for. I suggest the complacency is due to lack of benefit the government will directly see to the economy in opening the zoo. Absolute disgrace. This isn’t about the government doing the right thing for people and keeping them safe - just making money in the right places. Shame on you

  14. Comment by Jenna Fields posted on

    You are lying.
    There are no safety concerns here. If a mostly indoor and under cover Cheshire Oaks is deemed safe to open then a massive outdoor area such as Chester Zoo with numerous safety measures already in place is clearly safe. Can you provide *actual evidence* of how an indoor shop is safer than a large outdoor area? No, of course you can't, because it isn't.
    And the support fund is a joke. It is woefully inadequate and you know full well that most zoos don't have access to it anyway.
    There is another agenda here and you are disgracefully ignoring the needs of the animals and covering it up with these blatant lies.

  15. Comment by Yvonne Smales posted on

    Zoos and Aquariums need to open. Chester Zoo is renowned for its’ worldwide conservation work, its’ education and as a place where families of all ages can go. There is also a need to support the mental health welfare of people within the community, who benefit from visiting these places. The local Council stated they have been involved in Chester Zoos plans for a safe reopening. I find it hard to believe that Chester Zoo will not be able to open despite having a plan for reopening including social distancing, which is able to be monitored. While Cheshire Oaks Retail Outlet which is 4.4 miles away (according to Google Maps) will open as it is non-essential retail, possibly in a few weeks’ time. It hard to believe that parks, beaches, non-essential shops, National Trust grounds and a phased opening by the Canal and River Trust can go ahead, but not Zoos and Aquariums.

  16. Comment by Louis Summers posted on

    This is utter drivel! The Zoo Fund used to be £100M but was reduced as soon as Boris and his girlfriend recovered! It is a coincidence that Carrie Symonds is opposed to zoos and that the fund was reduced the day she was back in form? What a shambles. Furthermore, other institutions which are objectively much more risky have been opened, yet zoos, which are predominantly outdoor attractions and which rely on visitor income to pay the bills remain closed, just because a few people with high connections have whispered in the ear of the Prime Minister! Not a second of thought has been given to the fact that zoos have live animals in there care and need I remind DEFRA that many of the species held in their care are down to tens of individuals in the wild! The role they are playing is critical for education, conservation and research. Get your act together DEFRA.

    • Replies to Louis Summers>

      Comment by Andrew Gray posted on

      I am a zoologist and animal keeper but I want to thank DEFRA for all they are doing. I don't know what these other people just don't get - its not rocket science to understand that we contracted COVID from wild animals and for one - many could catch it back from us, and two - then they could possibly re-infect us after its mutated again into something worse. Zoos are money making institutions, and it says a lot that the government have set up a fund especially to support them. Thanks for being responsible and not listening to some public and zoo folk opinion until we have the real information we need to fully understand the susceptibility and involvement the many different wild animals play in the bigger COVID picture. And on Chester Zoo, it looked more like disney than ever the last time I visited, even multi-million plans to build a hotel on site with the level of profit being made I believe - its a shame they weren't thinking first about updating the chimpanzee house and putting them first. I believe that goldfish bowl of an exhibit has been like that for over 50 years and some of the poor animals have been in there about the same length of time - particularly sad to see - the animals closest to us and most intelligent. I bet they are not in a rush to have visitors peering through at them again - or catching SARS-CoV-2 (from which they are rated very high in ACE2 receptor binding).

      • Replies to Andrew Gray>

        Comment by Louis posted on

        I think you are grossly undermining two things:

        1) The conservation work Chester and other zoos in the UK are doing.
        2) The double standard of DEFRA and the government.

        Chester takes part in a multitude of conservation programs, giving over a million pounds annually to conservation efforts around the globe (particularly in Indonesia etc. but also at home in the UK). They also inspire generations of the people to care about wildlife. There are several petitions on the petition parliament website which are in favour of reopening or further funding zoos. Why do you think the areas with the most signatures are around Chester and Twycross? Because people from around there care about wildlife because of those zoos.

        You comment, correctly, that there is a ZooFund. However, the Zoo Fund is grossly inadequate and many zoos are being rejected for participation in it. Even if they don't, a very small sum of money is being given to zoos which only supports them for a couple of days, no more. Furthermore, why was it decreased by 86 million? And why are many zoos being rejected for the fund? I find it ironic that zoos have to now depend on PR to bring in money because the vast majority of their income is now from public donations from people who care and who are angry at the government for being in such a mess!

        You say that Chester is now like a Disney attraction. It isn't. If you think that, go to a place called Pairi Daiza. Lastly, I don't see how this is relevant - if you think Chester is going in the wrong direction (which it isn't), do you disagree that Chester are doing key Conservation, Education and Research work? You claim you are a zoologist, then surely you see that zoos are key to conservation and research, and I don't doubt you know the educational value of these facilities either. If the government tries to starve them of income, which is what they are doing right now under the influence of so called 'animal rights activists' who are extraordinarily ignorant about zoos and how they function. I don't see why you would support DEFRA in their half-hearted, muddled attempt to close down zoos!

        Lastly, DEFRA has allowing nature centres to open. How are they different to zoos and why are they opening and not zoos therefore? Slimbridge WWT is opening, yet they are part zoo?

        Essentially, either DEFRA is a mess and should undergo reforms in their structure and how they function, or it is a cruel and ignorant attempt to close down the one thing that makes us closer to wildlife. Either way, DEFRA is in the wrong and should try to right their mistake. This is not a popular decision they are making. The second and third most popular petitions on the parliament website are pleas to reopen/fund zoos. Please open zoos now, or you will lose even more votes than you already have.

        • Replies to Louis>

          Comment by Andrew Gray posted on

          Thanks for your reply Louis (no second name given?),

          It seems you have a strong opinion and have replied to other people in depth about your idea of the importance of zoos. I don't want to turn this into a debate but am happy to reply to some of your words and always happy to support education.

          However, much of your reply doesn't seem to match up with the words I wrote so I wonder if some of it is cut and pasted from another response you have made already somewhere? - I didn't comment on any Zoofund?

          I am not undermining anything, people have a right to their own personal view. I am actually a big fan of Chester Zoo and most of the work being done there - you are right, zoos are now supporting some valuable conservation, research and education - they have done very well to align themselves with these aspects, universities, and the likes recently - they have had to to justify their existence as they have historically grown from a rootstock of making money from entertainment. My comments relating to Disney last time I went are purely based on my surprise to find themed boat rides and some large models of dinosaurs taking up valuable space rather than giving that space over to live critically endangered species, or putting the money spent into changing the 50 year old chimpanzee goldfish bowl exhibit for example - I am sorry but I for the animals every time. Which is why I think DEFRA shouldn't have bowed to public opinion on now letting zoos open. Nature Centres and bird sanctuaries are a little different than a zoo holding 35,000 mainly non-native wild animals don't you think... perhaps there is another reason DEFRA were acting with caution at this time that many of the public haven't considered or care about..

    • Replies to Louis Summers>

      Comment by Chrissy Edge posted on

      Well said I agree with everything

  17. Comment by Hope Merrick posted on

    This petition calls for the UK government to reassess the reopening of zoos. Please sign and share.

  18. Comment by Jim posted on

    Hang your heads in shame you are a disgrace defra sitting in your public funded jobs for life . Get a grip and allow zoos to open.

  19. Comment by Alison Howard posted on

    Please could everyone who has commented here in support of re-opening Zoos, consider writing to your MP to urge them to take part in the adjournment debate ‘reopening zoos and aquariums’ taking place Thursday 11th June. A link to a template letter can be found on the BIAZA website.

    • Replies to Alison Howard>

      Comment by Nicola posted on


      There's a debate in UK parliament about the crisis facing zoos, aquariums and organisations dedicated to animal welfare. This debate will be held on Thursday 11th June and we need you to write a letter to your local MP asking them to attend the debate and demonstrate the urgent need for Government support.

      It is essential we get further support so we can continue our mission. So please take five minutes to help us!

      You can download a template letter here:

      To find your local MP’s contact details click here:

      We also want to ask you to submit a question to the government for one of the televised daily briefings. We are asking as many people as possible to submit a similar question to this > When uncontrolled outdoor areas and non-essential retail can open, why won’t the Government allow zoos and safari parks, which can offer controlled outdoor experiences, the flexibility to open and the get the financial support they need?

      You can do that here:

    • Replies to Alison Howard>

      Comment by Anne colough posted on

      I think it is politics that are stopping Chester zoo from opening because it is in a labour. Constituency

  20. Comment by Sue Read posted on

    Absolutely ridiculous DEFRA and showing a total lack of understanding and common sense. Chester Zoo has everything in place to reopen safely, has space, is an outdoor environment. You don’t allow the zoo to reopen but small shops can open. Words fail me. The zoo is vital to conservation work both here and across the world. Every day counts DEFRA. Let the zoo reopen. They cannot access the grant you mention. It is simply unthinkable that this could be the end of our beloved zoo.

  21. Comment by Heather Marsh posted on

    14 million between all the zoos or per zoo? This is just a drop in the ocean for wonderul Chester zoo if shared,it costs almost a million a month just to feed and care for the animals.
    Have you guys in charge ever visited Chester zoo? We live just a few miles away, and I promise you, whatever you think it is, and however you think it runs you will be wrong. Go and see, I'm sure you would be welcomed. It's a truly amazing place, and not in the least how you might imagine. I dare you - surprise yourselves, because this place needs your support over anywhere else. If anywhere is to be opened it is here, it must be a priority.

  22. Comment by C Holland posted on

    DEFRA please comment on how a zoo is any different in terms of safety to a local park, a botanical garden, a beach or a non-essential shop. If anything some of these are less safe than visiting the zoo. Surely you understand the hypocrisy in this situation? It would seem ‘safety’ is not the actual issue and is being used as an excuse to push through other agendas. It is very interesting that a DEFRA minister has ties to the Aspinalls (an anti zoo organisation that bizarrely owns two zoos) and I do believe this needs investigating.

  23. Comment by Emma Haywood posted on

    I’m afraid , and many others, are unable to see the logic in keeping zoos closed. Your government welcomes people to travel hundreds of miles to crowd on a beach to sunbathe. You allow roads to be blocked so the public can get their McDonalds fix. 5 mile queues to shop indoors at IKEA. You allow Car showrooms to open. Non essential retail can open their doors from 15th June ‘if they maintain social distancing measures’. You trust the public to exercise common sense in these instances. You have long argued that the risk of spread of COVID-19 is lesser outdoors. So why can I not visit a zoo? These charities which your government won’t support? Or is the conservation of endangered species not profitable enough? Do not allow these animals to become victims of this government’s desire to support big business over conservation.

  24. Comment by Claire posted on

    Words fail me. Come on DEFRA - common sense! We can soon go indoor shopping but not to an outside spaced out zoo.... We live nextdoor to Chester Zoo. It is an amazing place. Far more amazing than the local Primark....:-(

    • Replies to Claire>

      Comment by Carol Ellsworth posted on

      Absolutely ? they open soon

  25. Comment by Stuart Dominguez posted on

    What DeFRA fails to mention that Chester Zoo doesn't qualify for any of the £14 million hand, as it is too big!!

  26. Comment by Adele Cross posted on

    Am a long time member of Chester Zoo. I have just watched the Welcome Back (2) video and they have gone above and beyond to make it safe for us and to keep them alive, not just as a business but as MASSIVE contributor of animal survival!! It's an outdoor space, unlike such places as IKEA or car showrooms!!! To keep it closed is criminal.

    • Replies to Adele Cross>

      Comment by Kathy robinson posted on

      Same we are Zoo members and also why open Alton towers and Ikea but not a Zoo which is outside. It’s disgusting and saying it needs to stay closed indefinitely.

  27. Comment by Kiri posted on

    As many people have pointed out Chester Zoo and other large zoos cannot access this money therefore have no funding. Chester Zoo have developed a comprehensive plan showing how they can reopen and they have the full support of Chester residents. The zoo has been a lifeline to so many as well as creating jobs and bringing in money to the economy. We need our zoo and this measure could cause it to close. Let it and others reopen!

  28. Comment by Paula posted on

    I can't believe that you cannot open a zoo that is mostly outside but you can open a massive store like Ikea where you are inside and it is thought to less of a risk
    Surely a zoo is more beneficial if it is well managed for health and wellbeing more than a store where people will spend more than they can afford just to make them feel better.!!!! Seriously think it is questionable your decision on what you think is more important wealth or health !!!!!

  29. Comment by LC posted on

    Zoos have already demonstrated how they will open safely, far more so than any unmanned park or garden which has already permitted to open. WWT has been permitted to open (Slimbridge alone qualifies as a zoo with flamingoes and other exotic non native species). The zoos fund doesn't even begin to cover what is needed each month to keep over 400 uk zoos running, paying for feed, keepers, utilities etc. Not to mention that many aren't even eligible for it! So it very much feels like zoos are being deliberately penalised. There is NO sense to this decision.

  30. Comment by Mark Ridgway posted on

    With so manny shops opening, this makes no sense. Zoos should be allowed to open at the earliest opportunity (please).

  31. Comment by Steve posted on

    "you understand" clearly means you don't care then, because if you did understand you'd understand the sheer hypocrisy of your statment about keeping the public safe. Shops are not spacious enough for public distancing it's that simple.

    Zoos also employ vets and other professionals who are used to dealing with bio security meaning they already know about dealing with diseases etc. deferring VAT ridiculous when are they going to pay it back and how? even if zoos open now the loss of earnings huge from closure upto this point. Up until now it has been one of those awful situations but from your poor choice onwards the welfare of millions of animals, and 10,000s of employees in the UK and internationally, litterally species face more pressure of extinction because of you inability to do your jobs. But as long as people can buy new cars or furniture what does mass employment and animal welfare matter?

  32. Comment by Caroline Adaway posted on

    Why can you go to the beach or into a department store but not to a zoo or wildlife park. Umbers can be restricted at zoos. Sanitisation and procedures can easily be put in place. Please reconsider

  33. Comment by Sandra McEvoy posted on

    This is absolutely ridiculous , never heard such rubbish.How can anyone justify opening up beaches , parks and shops where there is no distancing and masks are not being worn by a lot of people when it is so much easier to organize crowd control and distancing at the zoo . Come on Defra , think carefully and do the right thing . These animals did not volunteer to live in the zoo so why punish them !!!

  34. Comment by Catherine posted on

    If non-essential places where social distancing is not controllable such as clothes shops, football grounds, theme parks etc can reopen why can't zoos? In a zoo social distancing is controllable unlike at beaches which many people have recently visited and not carried out social distancing.

  35. Comment by Catherine Basford posted on

    Zoos need support from their punters to continue to provide essential conservation work including in-situ and ex-situ conservation that has seen species returned to the wild or vital conservation of animals already in the wild. Defra and local councils make conservation, research and education key assessment points for issuing licenses to zoos running, they know this. Get them open inline with other essential sectors or financially aid them until they can safely open.

  36. Comment by Jane Redpath posted on

    Chester Zoo is 128 acres of open air. Cheshire Oaks is 9 acres of closed in shops. One can open and the other can't. Chester Zoo has been told by Environmental Health officers that their plans for social distancing, extra sanitisation and ticketing make them safe yet they are blanket banned from opening, risking thousands of jobs, animals and weakening international conservation efforts. It is a travesry.

  37. Comment by Stuart Peter willis posted on

    This is so wrong we need are zoos opening soon as some like chester are charitys. So it is ok to open a theme park like alton towers that makes £500,00 a week and not a zoo. These animals in are zoo need help now not a theme park. Chester zoo could be extinct if the government does not open it soon. The mottershead family will be turning in there graves at this government if this happens. Please save Chester zoo before it is to late.

  38. Comment by Angela Clark posted on

    As Chester Zoo doesn’t qualify for any part of the £14 million Defra’s statement is an insulting waste of words.

  39. Comment by Christopher Burnham posted on

    I do not know what social distancing measures other UK zoos have put in place but I do know that Chester Zoo has carried out a considerable amount of work to protect paying visitors. It therefore makes no sense to me and many many more that despite these measures being put in place, which are similar to those being provided by the National Trust and other tourist attractions that the Government is allowing them to open along with beaches and parks where no controls are in place but not Chester zoo. Where is the science, so often quoted that says opening the zoo will lead to an increase in cases of coronavirus. This matter requires urgent reconsideration. Thank you

  40. Comment by Lianne Parry-Jones posted on

    The zoo is safer than a classroom and shops it provides a wealth of information,excellent educational resources breeding programmes. It could be adapted and managed by simple instructions and limited nos booking systems for entry.It is a world class zoo a home for wonderful animals with devoted staff and Chester needs it.Think again it is more of a necessety than a burger. Please keep it open Lianne Parry-Jones

  41. Comment by Bernadette Flathers posted on

    Is there any joined up thinking going on? It is unbelievable that large stores like IKEA can open and not outdoor activities which will have equally well thought out social distancing. We are told that being outside is safer. Crowds are allowed to visit parks and beaches and are supposed to use common sense and socially distance. Why not Zoos?

  42. Comment by Mike Canning posted on

    I’m so disappointed in DEFRA and something is wrong here. It is nonsensical to allow WWT sites, National Trust sites and Eden Project to open but not expansive & well managed zoo sites. There MUST be an anti-zoo agenda at play here at the top of DEFRA and government? Zac Goldsmith’s (DEFRA minister) ties to the Aspinall zoo parks need to be investigated as Aspinalls views on zoo conservation are somewhat radical and at odds with the rest of the BIAZA zoo community.

  43. Comment by Peter Carrington posted on

    If you don't move quickly, there won't be any zoos left!

  44. Comment by Dian Morris posted on

    This is absolutely appalling, they are letting shops open, even some shopping centres, yet somewhere that is outdoors is not allowed to open. Should be ashamed these zoos need all the public money they can get. 14million won’t go far across all the zoos in the country

  45. Comment by Wendy Stanley posted on

    Please rethink your decision over keeping Chester Zoo closed. Why can't they reopen such a huge site especially if they do something similar to the National Trust. It's seems unfair that the retail park close by can open as it poses a greater risk to public health.

  46. Comment by David Roscoe posted on

    Chester Zoo has as its Mission Statement, “Preventing Extinction” and is working, with the assistance of visitor funding to do just that. Of the 35,000 animals it supports, most are of species that are vulnerable, to varying degrees, in the wild. The zoo, as I understand it, relies upon visitors for around 97% of its funding to carry out this critical work. Chester Zoo is an important visitor attraction within the UK economy but its mission is paramount.

  47. Comment by Amy posted on

    I heard Chester zoo doesn't qualify for any of that money. Shame on you for putting money ahead of animal welfare. Enjoy your income from sports restarting (BTW how can football be OK???..... Oh yeah, because of the revenue it brings in) and from the shops reopening.

  48. Comment by Paula posted on

    It's the work of scientists linked with zoo's that are studying how these virus transmit. So by not allowing zoo's to open, the funding will stop and all this will just happen again and again and again because people will not understand how zoonotic diseases work.

  49. Comment by Trevor A Bishop posted on

    How much of the £14million has Chester Zoo received?
    People are flocking to beaches and parkswith no supervision.
    National Trust and English Heritage are reopening their gardens.
    Most zoos have massive amounts of open spaces. Chester Zoo and other zoos have put in all sorts of extras to protect against coronavirus.
    Slimbridge Wildfowl Trust has been allowed to reopen on the basis that people have to walk through the so-called 'collection areas' ie the zoo part of Slimbridge to the nature reserve, when in reality most people only go there for the so-called 'collection areas' ie the zoo part and never go onto the nature reserves. I never do when I visit. I go to the see the bird and mammals in the 'collection areas' ie the zoo.
    If DEFRA have allowed WWT Slimbridge to reopen, then logic and equality demands they allow zoos to reopen too.

  50. Comment by Ellie Thomsen posted on

    The maximum amount any zoo is able to receive is £100,000, which for large collections is but a drop in the ocean in terms of the support needed during the current crisis. Zoos being able to reopen under controlled numbers would have benefits all round, for the animal, staff and the public. Please reconsider!

  51. Comment by Lee posted on

    Defra you are a disgrace. So we can go to Primark shopping, have a McDonalds but not an outside zoo.

  52. Comment by George Courtley posted on

    If wide open spaces like Chester zoo and Whipsnade are not safe, where is ?
    It seems it is OK to flood parks and beaches with bodies but zoos are being unjustly penalised. Get a grip DEFRA

  53. Comment by Dr Vidiya Prakash posted on

    Zoo's don't contribute to the economy as much as we are led to believe, and there are multiple ethical questions about captivity in general. The big zoo's will survive because of the sheer profit they have been making, but surely this was better off invested in in-situ conservation than our amusement.

    • Replies to Dr Vidiya Prakash>

      Comment by Rachael Willis posted on

      Chester Zoo can ' bang on' about conservation, palm oil, extinction all they like and it's all very admirable , but does any of it justify keeping a wild animal imprisoned?

  54. Comment by Corrin searle posted on

    Alton towers can open ahops can open nothing getting donw about people crowding beachs and parks half the goverment are breaking the rules cheater zoo will be 100% obiding by the saftey rules poor animimals who ever is invloved in making it not open should hang there head in shame

  55. Comment by Peter Sykes posted on

    Defra: I'm afraid you're open to some ridicule in relation to your not permitting controlled reopening of zoos. There are major inconsistencies between what can be (and is) now allowed. Parks are open. Chester Zoo is a park with great views. In the case, for example, of Chester Zoo, they have conducted risks assessments and prepared their premises.

  56. Comment by Charlie Craig posted on

    If people are aloud to go onto busy beaches/parks ect with nothing to control social distancing, and no guarantee that there is social distancing, why can’t they go to visit wide open outdoor zoos that can put in place strict measures and ensure people follow them ! Same with shops ect the government has said transmission of the virus is lower outside so surely it’s safer to open zoo than shops.

  57. Comment by Laura posted on

    It would be helpful to have some explanation of the logic behind this decision. I agree that it's important not to take risks with public health, but I don't understand why it's safe for a botanical garden to open but not a zoo with a similar large, outdoor site and capacity to carefully manage visitor numbers and flow.

  58. Comment by Charlie Hart posted on

    If anything the £14 million fund is a token gesture to make it look like you tried. But as you know, many larger zoos do not qualify and cannot access this support.

    The news yesterday was not zoos asking for your financial help, they are simply asking to be able to open their gates. Zoos like Chester have put in place safety measures to protect staff and visitors during opening. If we are able to visit the beach with no restrictions, why not a secure location like the zoo? Numbers will be limited, cleaning stations available and staff to ensure social distancing is followed. The council have agreed that Chester Zoo is ready and safe to open. As far as I can see this is much safer than the clear breaches in social distancing I have seen at my crowded local park. Other outdoor attractions such as National Trust are allowed to open. What is the difference?

  59. Comment by Andy Asquith posted on


    Beaches all open and packed with enforcement of social distancing, fast food outlets open, car dealerships open, elite sport restarting.

    All clearly more important than animal welfare and species conservation, I guess endangered species cant apply as much pressure on the government as billionaires.

    Get your priorities sorted out, first you failed the country and now failing conservation

  60. Comment by Rowena Gomersall posted on

    Chester Zoo probably wouldn't need government support if they were allowed to open. The zoo has an excellent plan that would allow it to re-open that would keep staff and public safe. It's clear and detailed unlike some other relaxations of the lockdown. It just needs the government to give it the go ahead. If outdoor parks can re-open why can't the zoo?

  61. Comment by Martin Knox posted on

    We all know the only zoo that would be allowed to open is london zoo, that one will never be allowed to shut down because the government will always step in to bail it out, everywhere else? Well, its our bad luck that places such as Bristol, Chester, Blackpool, Twycross and Edinbrugh zoo won't be allowed to open again, for the simple reason they are not in london! If we are going to (rightfully) demand the opening of zoos, let's demand the opening of safari parks as well. They can eady contain the spread of COVID as the only way to attend them is in the car.

  62. Comment by Claire Baker posted on

    Zoo do indeed qualify for govt help, however charity zoos such as Chester, ZSL London etc do not, as you're well aware. Social distancing will not be an issue, and they have shown to be positive influences on mental health. Do the right thing before you're response for the widespread death of thousands of lives.

  63. Comment by Sharon Latham posted on

    It is an outdoor area which is keeping its indoor areas closed. There is no logic or sense in keeping it closed indefinitely. This is a destructive action with the wider impact effecting animals worldwide.

  64. Comment by Charlotte posted on

    i can’t wrap my head around this at all. why does the government think it’s okay to open beaches, and places like cheshire oaks and alton towers - places that are literal breeding grounds for germs, bacteria and illness - places that are perfect for increasing covid cases with entitled people coughing and spluttering all over staff, but they can’t open the zoo despite them having steps in place to reduce risk.

    chester zoo has been around since 1931, and it saddens me to think that it could be shut down because of this pandemic. yes, there is risk wherever you go but the zoo is a piece of national history and the £1.6m they need a month is JUST for the animals, NOT the staff. there can be things put in place to ensure social distancing.


  65. Comment by Michaela nelson posted on

    This zoo cannot close, it is an amazing zoo. The animals are so well cared for, the staff are amazing. They have changed it to adhere to social distancing. Online ticket sales will only allow so many people in. I've been going there for over 45yrs. It is just so frustrating that it is not allowed to open. I hope the government changes its mind soon.

  66. Comment by Katie Lound posted on

    Many large zoos do not qualify for this fund. How is it possible that public can visit their local Primark before visiting a zoo? Zoos are large, open spaces in which social distancing is easy to enforce.

  67. Comment by J Westwood posted on

    Zoos and wildlife parks are outside with open spaces much less dangerous than schools at this time please reopen them ASAP

  68. Comment by Georgie K posted on

    Zoos have been able to put in place strict health and safety measures such as ticketed entry with time slots to spread people out, one way systems, extra hygiene measures, extra training for staff and the ability to enforce social distancing. They can keep their indoor houses closed and allow people to be safe in their open, outdoor spaces under these measures. Yet you keep them closed but allow people to mass gather with no control at beaches, you allow huge crowds indoors at IKEA, you allow people indoors in none-essential shops and you give similar outdoor spaces such as WWT nature reserves, Kew Gardens and garden centres the green light to open? All the while zoos; huge contributors to conservation and species survival AND the economy, who cannot simply reign in their overheads or furlough keepers as they cannot just stop caring for their animals, must remain closed? You can provide no reason as to what the difference in safety is between a zoo and IKEA or a shop and why people would be more at risk in zoos. Because the answer is people are more at risk in the places you have decided to open first and you have massively dropped the ball on this one. You cannot defend your decision with the fact of the '14m' relief for zoos as many zoos have 'not qualified' including: Chester Zoo, Banham Zoo, Whipsnade, London Zoo, Africa Alive, Twycross Zoo and many more. Maybe you could explain then why your 14m zoo fund is not going to zoos?

  69. Comment by Wendy Ridehalgh posted on

    Please! Please! Review the opening of Chester Zoo.. they have put safety measures into place, allowing timed visits and allowing only a certain number of people in at any one time!! What would happen to the animals if you didn’t let the Zoo open?? Any animal deaths would be on YOUR conscience!! Think of all the conservation programmes , both here and abroad, that the Zoo are involved with!!!! Please, please, rethink and get Chester Zoo reopened.... I mean, if shops, ikea, Alton towers are opening, why boy the Zoo?????????????????

  70. Comment by Christine Edge posted on

    Defra need to understand what an important part Chester Zoo is playing, trying to save animals as well as the work they do around the world. If the likes of Alton Towers gardens are opening and the like plus Dublin and Jersey Zoo's I do not see what the problem is. Animals need to survive and without the likes of Chester Zoo they won't. Animals do not have a voice and we need to speak up for them.

  71. Comment by S Craig posted on

    I think zoo,s need to be kept open to the public especially for children . They do exceptional work for conservation. Do we really want to allow animals to become extinct. Please support our zoo,s they need us to keep animals safe.

  72. Comment by James Hill posted on

    Not only Chester, but many zoos in the UK are far more than just fun days out for the family. They provide a safe space for many endangered species as well as being some of the leaders of conservation that is vital in 2020. Zoos are a place for education about an increasingly important topic and a place of hope for dying species. Not only this, but think of how many hardworking, incredibly passionate and already low paid staff will now go jobless. Zoos arent huge sources of money due to the fact they're mostly charities, but I can guarantee they're far more important than any macdonalds or retail store that will be opening soon. Chester zoo especially has ample room for social distancing and has been preparing for the extra safety precautions, there is no reason to keep it closed if other smaller spaces are allowed to open. I see no difference in the way parks like Alton towers will operate compared to Zoos, except for the fact they'll bring in some extra money, at which point you need to ask yourself, is condemning hundreds of endangered species to possible extinction because keeping zoos open will bring no financial gain the right thing to do. Thank you.

  73. Comment by Chris Driscoll posted on

    Waste of time someone writing this. Boris has encouraged us to stay outdoors and last time I looked most zoos are outside. When did grabbing a McDonald's was more important then animal welfare? Open them now. £14 Million split between all the zoos won't amount to alot. Sort yourselves out.

  74. Comment by Marc posted on

    Years from now the government and its numerous SME departments will be issuing apologies over how it set vast hoards of the public (yet to return to work) free to congregate in public spaces while keeping manageable spaces closed.

    The government just ignorantly created the worst possible bank holiday scenario while condemning so many businesses, employers & conservation projects.

  75. Comment by Emily De Pasquale Wood posted on

    Zoos can provide SAFE outdoor space where social distancing measures are easy to implement. It makes no sense how people are able to inside buildings such as shops, but cannot enjoy open spaces whilst watching and learning about this worlds wildlife. Also, zoos contribute massively to conservation, both in the UK and abroad. This virus, has meant there is not the financial resources to carry on this vital work.
    In a time where we should be pulling together, why is it that zoos are being made to suffer?
    Zoos and aquariums are also experts at disease control, with trained veterinary staff on hand to help with any diseases that may become apparent with in the collection. Zoos are experts at controlling diseases and spread of infection, and the cleanliness is top priority due to the animals that live there.
    Please reconsider this statement. Zoos depend massively on visitors and directly contribute to the economy.

    Thank you.

  76. Comment by Jacqui Gibson posted on

    Zoo,s do essential work, in conservation, ensuring that endangered species , continue for future generations, to love and respect. Zoo s may also be the only way we get too see some species, I don,t see for one minute, how fast food outlets, car show rooms, housing markets, non essential shops are deemed more important, or more safe, The zoo s already have safety procedures in place, regarding covid 19.
    If zoo s go under because of this, and animals have to be euthanized as a result, your government will go down in history as the cause of this. ALL LIVES MATTER, ANIMALS INCLUDED. Please help them,.

  77. Comment by Kane Beales posted on

    The zoo grant is a joke, and most collections have been rejected.

    Zoo's can't open, yet Slimbridge Wetland Centre with an active zoo license and extensive exotic animal collection is allowed to open to the public whilst other zoo's suffer, only to be told the above from DEFRA.

    Something needs to be done.

  78. Comment by Norma Mayall posted on

    DefrA and there so called reply has not given a sensible reason for the closure of zoos. The added comment from them about the monitary assistance that zoos have been offered is laughable. There is no where near enough financial help to run a zoo safely. Many zoos are large open spaces that people can happily and safely walk around viewing the animals, especially like chester zoo with covid safety precautions already in place. If non essential shops can open,along with the possibility of hairdressers and dentists, surely an open park area like chester zoo should be able to open. Defra have surely got to review this. It will be a very sad day if my grandaughter cannot view and learn about endangered animals that are cared for and taught about in zoos.

  79. Comment by Frank York posted on

    I would be very interested to know how many applications for support have been granted compared to those declined. Be honest and tell the truth. You are ruining these centres of education, research and conservation. Taking advantage of the knowledge that zoo staff won't give up on the welfare of the animals is despicable.

  80. Comment by Carrie Lloyd posted on

    The Government really needs to think about this. You are going to be more safer at Chester Zoo, than what u are at a beach or even a super market. Boris Johnson you may have tried to kill are spirit. But you are forgetting the British People will fight for what they believe in and wont give up until you see sense and stop taking us for mugs.

  81. Comment by Sean Baker posted on

    The £14 million will not cover all the needs of one zoo never mind all the zoos in the UK. How can it be safe to open beaches and parks without controls of social distancing or shops which are enclosed. Most zoos are outdoor attractions with large grounds and offer educational support to children when children are not in school is vital. I believe Kew Gardens and Alton Towers gardens are opening how can this be when our zoos cannot

  82. Comment by Chris Collins posted on

    Let local authorities decide what can and can't open based on their local knowledge and experience. Some shops that are opening clearly shouldn't be. Some sites that are closed because they fall into an arbitrary government "one size fits all" category could easily be open. A Conservative government should trust the local authorities to be authoritative in their local area.

  83. Comment by Susan Jones posted on

    Zoos voluntarily shut their gates when lockdown was announced (they were not required to do so!) Since then they have been working hard to put in place social distancing measures to ensure visitors, staff and animals remain safe when visiting. Zoo's across Europe and the rest of the world have opened already and have been giving advice to British Zoos on what's worked and what hasn't, so British Zoos are already starting with plenty of precautions already in place.
    Unlike pretty much every other business, Zoos still have costs when they are shut, caring for their animals. I have yet to hear of a successful application to the 14million Zoo Support Fund you speak of.
    Zoos not only help with the care and conservation of animals on site, but help with conservation projects around the world, providing research opportunities in captive populations to help train researchers as well as raising funds and awareness. They provide education for millions of school children every year. They provide jobs for the local community, and in turn help the local economy. They provide opportunities for volunteers of all ages and abilities to learn new skills, make new friends and feel part of something worthwhile.

  84. Comment by Susan Evans posted on

    Chester zoo does amazing work for conservation. Most of the animals where born in zoos. They would stand no chance in the wild . Chester zoo must be kept open

  85. Comment by Lynn Lovell posted on

    Please reconsider the decision not to open zoos and wildlife parks. They have the space to ensure public safety is carried out, and they are just as concerned about keeping the animals safe too. It just doesn't make sense. National parks are open, people are going to beaches in their hundreds. Not all zoos are eligible for Government funding. They rely upon the public's support. They're educational, they're conservationists, they're huge and will have excellent arrangements in place so that the distancing etc will be followed.
    Please please reconsider

  86. Comment by Hayley posted on

    You need to open the Zoo’s to save these animals, the government has allowed beaches,parks, national trust and shops like Cheshire oaks Outlet Village which is crazy busy all the time and yet you won’t open the Zoo’s which is mainly all open areas!!! If you loose these zoo’s you won’t get them back and they’ll be gone forever and all of there good work. Shame on you Boris and the government shame on you.

  87. Comment by Tracey Houghton posted on

    a lot of angry people here wanting you to reconsider your action of keeping zoos closed.
    I for one don’t feel safe going to the beaches, they are overcrowded.
    I don’t want to be going shopping in non essential shops.
    I’m not interested in going to the pub or cinema when they reopen, I wouldn’t feel safe.
    But I would feel safe taking my children to the zoo, monitored numbers, fresh air outdoors, safe distances in place, every safety measure actioned.
    I don’t understand how you can justify the national trust, Alton towers gardens, Warwick castle (to name a few) opening there gates and leaving the zoo left out in the cold.
    Come on guys, think again....

  88. Comment by Lesley Symms posted on

    14million pounds is a drop in the ocean of money zoos need to survive so let them open and earn the money they need. Chester has worked hard to prepare their environment to facilitate social distancing and it’s outside in the fresh air. Shops can open soon, children can return to school and protesters are protesting in their thousands but I can’t take my grandchildren to the zoo there is no sense to the embargo.
    Oh but apparently I will soon be able to take them to Alton Towers!!!!!

  89. Comment by Sarah posted on

    I cannot see any reasonable or logical reason to indefinitely close a zoo, especially one as large and beneficial as Chester Zoo, no only for the keepers jobs, the tourism for Chester and the conservation work done for hundreds of endangered species. What is so different from cramming into b&q or Ikea or even a theme park or a packed beach? Makes no sense, the zoo has been making amazing amendments to ensure safe distancing precautions are being met, beaches aren’t? Chester Zoo needs its visitors as much as visitors need the zoo, I can’t imagine my children’s future family would never see a tiger or giraffe etc other than in a picture, the Zoo have a huge school education programme that is regularly used to cover mandatory curriculum based studies for primary school age children, unlike primark!! Yet they can open. Not sure what my children will learn on a school stop to a shopping centre? Not to mention the uncertainty of these animals when the government eventually pulls the plug on all funding, lets be honest they’re not going to pay millions every month for ever. Please reconsider and let Chester Zoo open when the time is right to continue their support of these endangered animals.

  90. Comment by Jean Fagan posted on

    Shame on you for not allowing them to open , is there someone there with a brain cell ?

  91. Comment by Mollie Walker posted on

    Have you even bothered to go and look at what they have done?
    How can Cheshire Oaks open but not an outdoor venue?
    Apply some common sense please

  92. Comment by Georgia Parkes-Russell posted on

    Unfortunately, the government response is pathetic. Public parks, beaches, and gardens are all places that are unable to maintain social distancing, and numbers are incorrectly monitored. The hot weather has made people forget to social distance and lead to irresponsible behavior. The step to open all non-essential shops, in which members of the public will be inside, in close proximity is foolish. I work in a shop myself, we allow three people at a time in, but once in they ignore the markers on the floor, and do not social distance. They are impatient and want to just walk past each other. All of these things seem irrelevant to the government.

    Chester Zoo has 128 acres of open space that is available for safe, practical social distancing. The zoo's proposals to maintain the health and safety of the general public, conforming to government guidelines, placing the safety of their visitors as vital seems to be ignored. Chester Zoo has provided countless help to conservation efforts around the world, all of their hard work is going to be undone by this virus and government ignorance. Chester Zoo not only provides a reprieve for families, or leads the world in conservation, animal welfare, and animal education. It is part of Chester's history, it is part of Upton's identity, and to ignore the importance of one of the worlds best zoos shows how little the government has acted for smaller cities like Chester during this pandemic

    14 million sounds a lot of money. It is. However, for zoos across the country, it is a small amount in comparison to actual amount needed to feed and care adequately for their animals. The government keeps talking about opening up the economy. Chester Zoo contributes to the economy of Chester an incredible amount. So, why aren't you opening Chester Zoo, but you're opening pubs next month?

    Chester Zoo especially holds a special place in my heart. I have begun to study zoo history as mart of my MA degree. Chester Zoo has lived through some of the harshest times that our country has ever seen, and the pandemic should be no different. The media and government promote the message that this is the hardest time since WW2. But, Chester Zoo survived the war, they might not survive this.

  93. Comment by Rachel steaton posted on

    It is vital to animals lifes that they open, their huge 128 acres of land to be abe to survive. How can small enclosed shops open and not a huge zoo

  94. Comment by India Mills posted on

    Outrageous that non essential small shops that are completely inside can open yet zoos that have large open spaces can’t! I’m sorry but if it’s “safe” enough for indoor shops to open it’s safe enough for zoos! Ridiculous that at this rate the zoos can open their gift shops but wouldn’t be able to open their outdoor areas. Despite common knowledge that large open areas limit the spread of coronavirus! Do something about this now before we lose our zoos for good!

  95. Comment by Rebecca Higgins posted on

    This is really disappointing and also doesn't make any sense. How can a big outdoor space where social distancing can be implemented, be seen as more of a risk and less important than high street shops? Please reconsider

  96. Comment by Carl Gleeson posted on

    The Chester and West Council’s health team says that Chester Zoo is safe to open. Is Defra not supporting Councils and their health teams which have been specifically there to ensure COVID safety. Where is Defra? Have they contacted the council or is this just a blanket note with no reference to COVID safety.

  97. Comment by Laurence Smith posted on

    So it’s ok for theme parks to reopen, it’s ok for fast food to reopen but not ok for zoo’s to reopen? You know those large outdoor spacious places that social distancing would be so easy to accommodate in? YOU CANNOT MOTHBALL A ZOO!! Zoo’s need income to feed their animals and they’re very quickly finding themselves in a lot of debt.

  98. Comment by Filippa M posted on

    Since when did fast food and cheap clothing come before animal welfare. Beaches are open, National trust are open and so will amusements parks. This is not acceptable, Zoos have bent over backwards to ensure they are safe to open. For the sake of the animals please reconsider !

  99. Comment by Amanda Bright posted on

    It would be easier to socially distance at zoos etc than it is at some places which are allowed to open now. For example the open air markets. Visitors to animal attractions generally go in family groups who could easily socially distance themselves when walking around.

  100. Comment by Philip Tugwell posted on

    As always an utter cop out and another example of disjointed thinking what have zoo’s done to so badly offend DEFRA and the Government? Beaches, national trust gardens, large scale demonstrations, shopping retail parks are all allowed to open but zoo’s are not get a grip and make the sensible decision and allow zoo’s to reopen we are making the UK a laughing stick again

  101. Comment by Front line Zoo Keeper posted on

    The continuing rhetoric of the fund is becoming tiresome. All this statement has done is publicise what you said in an email to zoo licence holders earlier this week.

    If you are taking guidance from the zoos expert committee, maybe look at who is sitting on that panel, because they clearly are not experts in what zoos need to survive this period. DEFRA is far, far removed from what we actually need them to do. If you don't act soon, in a big way, you're going to have a very, very bad problem to deal with.

  102. Comment by James Wright posted on

    The fund you keep talking of comes with so many strings attached and is of such limited value, you are jeopardising an entire industry by forcing closure.

    The wide open spaces of many zoos are better suited than shops that are allowed to open.

    Ticket number, entrance times and public flow can all be managed unlike large shop floors.

    Dictation does not mean the same as consultation!

  103. Comment by Laura Mckay posted on

    Struggling to comprehend the logic. If we are allowed to visit open air public spaces, where the goodwill and willingness of the public is relied upon to manage social distancing and visitor numbers, but not a zoo which is in the open air and has specific controlled ways of managing numbers and distancing, where is the difference? Our local zoo is both a trailblazer in conservation and a huge local employer.
    Very disappointing news, my delicate faith in our government’s decisions during this period is ever diminishing

  104. Comment by fiona posted on

    I can go to the beach, visit the local national park or local open areas where there are no restrictions on visitor numbers or social distance markers but I can’t go to the zoo where social distancing measures are in place as are other safety measures. I can also go into a classroom of 15 children but can’t go to an open air venue.
    The explanation given is a typical government waffle. Where is the hard scientific evidence that says zoos are less safe than beaches. I look forward to seeing it.

  105. Comment by Tina Comer posted on

    It states that defra are engaging with biaza, why have Dublin Zoo and fota wildlife park been allowed to reopen with the same safety measures that Chester zoo are saying they will be implementing yet they are not allowed to open

  106. Comment by Megan posted on

    So shops can all open, fast food industries and yet zoos and wildlife parks are not allowed. Alot of zoos are obviously outside and it can easily be managed to social distance and limit the amouny of visitors or specific group sizes? so surely with this and including more sanitizer areas and washing areas this will compensate for the keeping safe? Zoos and Aquariums are struggling as it is and only £14 million for them considering the amount we have within the UK and how much is required for them to run sufficiently is no where near enough! If you want them to remain closed they need more funding!

  107. Comment by Christy Williams posted on

    All that says nothing. Does DEFRA really think that zoos, aquariums etc haven't been working to implement social distancing measures ready for reopening? What do they think we've been doing for the last three months? You are allowing furniture shops to open, hardware stores etc. But not zoos, safari parks etc.? Businesses that are outside by their nature?

  108. Comment by Pauline Lowrie posted on

    Chester Zoo has 128 acres almost all of which is in the open (and they have said they will keep under cover areas closed) accompanied by about 6 miles of paths. They have planned online booking only to regulate numbers; timed entry; and a one-way system. I would feel as safe at the zoo as I am in my own garden. I am more at risk in my supermarket, yet we have non-essential shops and garden centres open. Chester Zoo does not qualify for the government grant which is intended for small zoos, nor does it pay VAT. This is a world-class conservation organisation and there is no logic or even common sense in keeping it closed.

    • Replies to Pauline Lowrie>

      Comment by Carole Parnaby-King posted on

      I think that you have hit the nail on the head as unlike all of the other businesses being allowed to reopen Zoos are often charities which don’t pay VAT etc.

  109. Comment by Natasha Mansfield posted on

    I am absolutely bemused as to why it’s been “deemed safe” to allow people to attend parks, beaches, have shops re-open as well as some food outlets which from pictures I’ve seen are just blocking up roads but not allowing zoos to re-open where they get no help from the government what so ever. Do you not realise many of these zoos do vital conservation work to sustain some species which have been hunted to near extinction?

    You seriously need to re-think this decision and allow them to open with social distancing measures in place. The fact you are fine with people flocking to beaches and people will be flocking to shops when they are open, both which have no social distancing precautions in place or it will be too difficult to man so none is enforced is absolutely ludicrous. I for one would rather attend a zoo then attempt to go shopping because it will be horrendous. PLEASE re-think this, for the animals sake and welfare.

  110. Comment by Gemma posted on

    Can you please explain why you are killing our zoo's?
    You know how much they cost to run and that the larger zoo's are not eligible for help.
    If any animals suffer because of this poor decision their blood is on your hands!

  111. Comment by Deryn Smith posted on

    How is it safe to open shopping centres but not zoos? Zoo’s are outside and they can limit the amount of visitors each day. Shopping centres can’t do that but they’re getting the go ahead?

  112. Comment by Janet Horsman posted on

    Zoos and sanctuaries can put in place clear safety measures, restrict access to outdoors only, monitor them and limit numbers, there is no logical reason why they should stay closed when non-essential shops (indoors), large retail malls and other leisure activities are opening.
    Zoos are also unable to shut up shop, turn out the lights and send everyone home because of the need to feed and care for their animals therefore they have significant ongoing expenses that cannot be avoided and thus desperately need to reopen.
    Please reconsider this decision as the risk of going to a zoo with clear plans in place is far far less than all uncontrolled activity now taking place.

  113. Comment by Gillian White posted on

    Why does it make sense to lift restrictions on lots of places, send kids back to school, yet this wonderful place faces closure .They probably have better safety measures in place than other places do .Please rethink this is so wrong for so many reasons .

  114. Comment by F. Howat posted on

    DEFRA you can continue spouting your rhetoric about maintaining public safety and providing an emergency zoo fund, but these are outright lies and both you and we know it.

    The fact remains that other parks, gardens and open spaces have, or are opening, not to mention the many indoor shopping spaces that have also been deemed safe for public now, yet outdoor, closely managed and council-approved covid-secure zoos etc are somehow considered more dangerous? Most larger charity-based zoos don't even qualify for the limited emergency fund, so continuing to bring this up highlights even more your inability to see common sense, logic or adherence and understanding of your own policies.

    Seriously have a long, hard think about why there is so much public outrage at this, and perhaps consider the clear fact you have made a significant oversight in prohibiting the managed opening of such sites. If you're able to articulate any reasonable argument, given the above why such places cannot open, then please do let us know. Please see common sense and reverse your decision.

  115. Comment by Samantha posted on

    How can a theme park, namely Alton Towers, open their grounds to the public, yet Chester Zoo cannot? Both have large outdoor areas that would allow social distancing to be adhered too. The mind boggles as to why one is restricted and the other is not...

  116. Comment by Sarah-Jane Duncan posted on

    These decisions are giving the public zero confidence in DEFRA. There can be no argument that is viable to keep a zoo like Chester Zoo closed - with over 100 acres of open land and £1million spent on covid safety measures... When unessential shops with a small footprint are being allowed to open and serve the public within the confines of the building. Absolutely ridiculous. This decision, with Chester Zoo in mind in particular, will not only put the zoo at risk, it will risk countless jobs - not to mention the welfare of the animals and the commitments to worldwide conservation. This is just another incompetence by the government! And thankfully, one that the people will not take lying down.

  117. Comment by Sharon Johns posted on

    Please please let our Zoos open. Our family are all members of Chester Zoo. They like others are vital in protecting wild life. I don’t need to go to
    Ikea,shopping malls or McDonalds. I want to visit our Zoo which has put safety measures in place & need our support. It makes no sense at all to open other places when you can’t open Zoos.

  118. Comment by Ellie Hadlington posted on

    Zoos cannot furlough animal keepers. Most zoos are not elligble for the funding, and even if they were a share of 14 million is not enough, as most zoos have a monthly cost in excess of £500,000.

    I fail to see how you can soon queue in an indoor shopping centre for non essential items when an outdoor attraction that can limit guest numbers and is ideal for social distancing is forced to remain closed. LIVES depend on this decision. If zoos are forced to close what do they think will happen to the animals?

    Please reconsider this decision. If alton towers and the likes can open I fail to see why zoos can't. Zoos also help the economy, as the likes of chester encourage visitors from far and wide to visit, thus increasing trade in the general area. If you can't afford to keep zoos afloat then please let them open so they can generate the money themselves.

    Zoos can limit the number of people entering and have covid secure measures in place. Alot safer than a shooing centre or a beach me thinks!

  119. Comment by Gillian Cannon posted on

    I dont understand how a large number of public places are allowed to open where it is clear that maintaining social distancing will be challenging yet zoos that clearly are in a position to monitor the situation and have ample outdoor space to allow social distancing are not being permitted to open. Zoos are probably more equipped to manage the crowds better than a park or each as they can control their numbers so to say they must remain closed indefinitely while there are plans to open shops and pubs and even beauty treatments like hairdressers does not make sense

  120. Comment by Julie Prowse posted on

    I suspect there's something else going on here. Chester zoo has prepared the grounds to open whilst keeping people safe. Cheshire Oaks is about to open, I know where I'd feel safer and it's not in a shopping centre. For God's sake, let the zoos and aquariums open if they're prepared to do so safely. We will not let DEFRA or the government kill our zoos!

  121. Comment by Lyndsey posted on

    What I don't understand is that similar ticketed attractions such as The Eden Project and National Trust sites can open yet zoos and wildlife parks cannot, even though they have put all the safety measures and social distancing in place and can easily control their visitor numbers

  122. Comment by Fran Drake posted on

    I haven't heard of a single zoo that has had aby help from that grant, Chester zoo are using loans earmarked for development which will now need paying back

  123. Comment by Jane Hammond posted on

    Have you considered what will happen to the animals? Considered that your action may lead to unneeded deaths! The research done by Chester is huge. Their discovery of a treatment for Elephants is immeasurable. It would be unforgivable to halt the amazing work done by this organisation.

  124. Comment by ANN ASHTON posted on

    Make sure the words do say something... The country wants to save it's zoos - Chester is my local and has been a favourite day-trip for many years. The locality cares about its zoo and the people and animals that are there. Time to open across the UK. Generations to come have to be allowed to appreciate the wonder of it all, just as we did and hopefully will continue to.

  125. Comment by Alison Johnston posted on

    Another useless government body with no common sense. The overall response to this pandemic has been pitiful. How dare you put these organisations at risk. Risk assess them on an organisation by organisation basis and let them open if they meet the standards required. You are lazy. And 14million doesn't even touch the sides - do you think we are stupid?

  126. Comment by Julia Murphy posted on

    Can we please open up Chester Zoo again and very soon: they have demonstrated how they are Covid-secure, they are an outdoor space, and surely it is only hypocrisy from decision making bodies for non-essential shops to open but for places like the zoo - which provide so many benefits to animals and humans alike - to be ordered to remain closed.

  127. Comment by Rachel Walkley posted on

    I would rather send my children into the open space of a zoo than a confined school or shop. Why are National Trust gardens allowed to open using prebooked tickets but not a zoological garden? Why can people crowd on to a beach with zero sanitation facilities but not a zoo which has added extra facilities? Zoos can't survive on your handouts so what will happen to the welfare of the animals and the staff needed to take care of them?

  128. Comment by Sarah Smith posted on

    This actually says nothing of any substance at all. Just reiterating what we already know. Defra has provided no justification for its decision which makes me suspect it’s because it doesn’t really have one. I’d love to know why Alton Towers can open and Chester Zoo can’t!

  129. Comment by ian price posted on

    time for a dose of reality here. the government has allowed people to use beaches, woodland, parks in such a manner that it is obvious no social distancing has been taking place. look at the media over the recent warm weather, that is a fact.
    it has allowed non essential shops to open causing massive queues.
    retail has been struggling to impose social distancing, i know, i work in it. yet an organisation that professionally handles large groups has taken covid safe procedures, done so to make people safer than they are in the prementioned parks and beaches and yet remain closed for public safety??

    oh please. have a think about this, get off your backsides and see for yourself the procedures in hand and see that places like chester zoo are doing this right.

    what has cheshire oaks and alton towers done that is so different ??
    you seriously need to review this poor decision, not just for chester but in general.

  130. Comment by Thomas Collard posted on

    Whilst the £14 million zoo support fund is important, and has been made available to some zoos, many have not been able to qualify. The longer that zoos are kept closed, the welfare of animals and the staff (in terms of job security) is at risk. The "zoo community" calls on DEFRA and the government to re-evaluate their current stance on zoo closure, and take positive steps forward to allow collections that have implemented social distancing measures to reopen.

  131. Comment by Rob McKay posted on

    Disgraceful. Letters to government have been sent today from a huge range of business leaders, local MPs and vast numbers of concerned public who cherish Chester Zoo and are pleading for a reversal of this ridiculous ruling.

    The grant you speak of is worthless as you have told Chester Zoo they are not eligible. Their monthly outgoings eclipse the grant value even if they were eligible. The only way they will survive is to open immediately.

    There is no logical reason to keep them closed. Robust distancing measures are in place and visitor numbers can be easily controlled through an online prebooking system - unlike the beaches which you have opened. Your justification on safety grounds don’t make any sense when you allow smaller, more confined, indoor retailers to open.

    There is huge growing resentment towards government about this. Time is slipping away fast. Your chance to act and rectify this situation is growing smaller by the day.

    If the zoos collapse there will be national uproar.

  132. Comment by Alison Howard posted on

    Zoos across the UK are struggling - since when did buying cheap clothes or eating fast food become more important than the welfare of living creatures? If shops and food outlets can open - WHY NOT ZOOS?
    These places have more than enough space to allow social distancing, and in terms of public safety are no more risk than garden centres - which are now open.
    For goodness sake DEFRA show some common sense before its too late.

    • Replies to Alison Howard>

      Comment by Susan Evans posted on

      I'm really upset by this. Humans not animals spread this disease.
      You allow outlets that sell junk food and junk furniture to reopen. Why not the zoo. Would you on defra be the ones to murder innocent animals?
      Open zoos etc ASAP

    • Replies to Alison Howard>

      Comment by Jacqueline Welham posted on

      Alison Howard I totally agree with you. We support Africa Alive & Banham Zoo's (ZSEA). They are really struggling and could open if allowed using social distancing and by putting a number of good measures in place. As you say garden centres are far less spacious and they are allowed to open. come on DEFRA get your act together.

  133. Comment by Graham Daniel posted on

    Let Zoos and Wildlife parks open; people are flooding to the coast and national parks but where social distancing can be monitored and enforced Zoos etc are kept closed. Please reconsider.

  134. Comment by Nancy Bell posted on

    Except zoos like London Zoo, Whipsnade, Twycross, Chester and many more - responsible for vital global conservation work - don't qualify for the Zoo Support Fund. As Defra well knows.

    • Replies to Nancy Bell>

      Comment by Roger Stevens posted on

      At last someone agrees with me about the existence of 100s of zoos contributing very little to conservation at the expense of animal exploitation for profit and human entertainment. As you say defra are well aware of this: the economy always comes first -- after all they are only animals!!!

      • Replies to Roger Stevens>

        Comment by Louis posted on

        Have you ever been to a zoo?

        Zoos were first developed in the 1800s because people wanted to see exotic animals which they would never otherwise be able to see. Animals were captured from the wild at will, without thinking about whether they were tearing up families or leaving a whole area without any megafauna. They were kept in horrible conditions and for people's enjoyment. I think we agree on this.

        However, as times have moved on, humankind has realised the scale of our infringement on the environment, and as a result, on wildlife. This has resulted in multiple species going extinct: Thylacine, Passenger pigeon, the list goes on. However, you'll find that the last specimens of these species died in the zoo, because they tried to save them. As we both know, they failed. As this was happening, fewer and fewer species were being captured in the wild for zoos, until, at a certain point, no species were captured in the wild anymore. Zoos still take in the odd injured animal found nearby, but that is not the same as dispatching a capturing party to bring back a couple of the animal in question as was done at the start. Now, the vast majority of captive animals are captive born.

        Recently of course, there was a scandal when a few big-name zoos captured a couple of herds of elephants and shipped them to the US to be displayed in zoos of the likes of Columbus zoo in Ohio (one of the best zoos in the US, in case you are not aware). Of course, there was a massive outcry. However, what you might not know is that the elephants in question were likely either going to be culled by the Zimbabwean government (where elephants are considered pests because there are far too many of them), or poached. I'm sure neither of us want this to happen. So the zoos took them in and thankfully, they are now breeding successfully and bolstering the gene pool of the captive population. They are also kept in state of the art exhibit with massive pools, several zookeepers to themselves and lots of enrichment. Would you prefer them to die? I'm sure not.

        Of course, zoos have made mistakes. Not long ago, a significant number of Sumatran rhinos were taken in by a variety of zoos in the hope that they would breed and give hope to their survival. Sadly, it did not go well and only a few rhino calves were born. However, you cannot ignore the work that zoos have done. They have indisputably saved Przewalski's horses, Golden lion tamarins, Amur leopards, American bisons, Wisents, Cottontop tamarins, Western lowland gorillas and so many others. Other, less famous species have been saved from the brink of extinction away from the public eye. Lake Titicaca frogs, African clawed toads, Lord Howe stick insects and numerous other species have been saved Behind the Scenes.

        The organisation in charge of the zoos in New York (including Bronx zoo) give over 100 million dollars a year to conservation. I highly doubt that sum would be given to conservation directly to conservation by the people of New York every year without the zoos. Zoos also play the role of educational facilities. Hundreds of millions of people visit zoos every year. Visitors can learn lots about all the animals, and this signage especially influences the children. Without zoos, I am willing to bet we wouldn't have a good half of conservationists.

        Just as an example in case you underestimate the work zoos do to fuel conservation efforts, here is an example. The Amur leopard is a subspecies of leopard from the Russian Far East. Twenty years ago, there were relatively few in captivity and below 35 individuals left in the wild. Now, there are over 300 individuals in captivity across Asia, North America and Europe, and over 80 in the wild. Without zoos, they would be extinct without a doubt.

        Lastly, zoos are essential for research. Elusive and endangered species such as Okapi are impossible to study in the wild, but in zoos it is possible to get essential data and information on behaviour. This makes it easier to conserve them in-situ. Zoos also fund massive in-situ conservation projects both local and from all over the world. What can replace them?

        I am not saying zoos are perfect - far from that in fact. But what you are saying is highly ironic. I assume you care about animals and conservation. Without zoos, a number of megafauna species would be extinct. Furthermore, much less money would be donated to conservation since the vast majority of people go to the zoo for enjoyment, not to give money to conservation. And lastly it would make in-situ conservation much more difficult. Essentially, zoos will become nicer and nicer places for the animals that call them home as time goes on. But for now, they are needed and if the government is really trying to get rid of them they are sadly mistaken, as with many other things they have done. Nature is in crisis by our hand. Zoos are the only way to crawl out of the bomb wreckage we have caused in the environment.

        As for whether zoos can be opened safely, look no further than France, Germany, the Czech republic and many others, all of whom opened zoos a good while ago with no issues and in a logical order. Meanwhile, our government is starving our zoos of money and well on its way to being guilty of the deaths of thousands of animals. If only a few zoos survive this crisis, conservation initiatives that rely on these zoos' funding (as many do), will know where to point the finger, and point the finger they will. The government seems to think that closing zoos is a popular move. It isn't.

  135. Comment by Roger Stevens posted on

    Future of zoos as they are currently operated is under more scrutiny than ever. The little amount of conservation work does not justify keeping so many animals in captivity where they are unable to perform natural behaviour. Accredited sanctuaries would be a less human centric alternative if they cannot be rehabilitated and returned to the wild where they were, in many cases, stolen from. I consider govt support is inappropriate on ethical and animal welfare grounds.

    • Replies to Roger Stevens>

      Comment by Alex McDonald posted on

      The alternative right now is to cull 10s of thousands of animals and lose rare species, some of which only thrive in protected environments like zoos. Releasing them to the wild is fantastical thinking.

      Animal deaths on a massive scale. Is that what you and Defra want?

    • Replies to Roger Stevens>

      Comment by Lyndsey posted on

      Unfortunately most animals in UK zoos would not survive in the wild due to being captive bred. In an ideal world there would be no need for zoos but we humans have seen to that due to habitat destruction

    • Replies to Roger Stevens>

      Comment by Sandra posted on

      ‘Accredited sanctuaries’ dont exist! Its just another name for a zoo. Zoo/safari park/aquarium/sanctuary all need a zoo licence to operate and open to the public inorder to secure vital income to keep animal welfare standards high. The word sanctuary is used to appease people like yourself with limited knowledge on how zoological collections work globally to protect endangered species.

    • Replies to Roger Stevens>

      Comment by Sandra posted on

      Also even if the animals who could in theory be rehabilitated and returned to the wild, where do you want them to be released to? Their natural habitats that no longer exist due to human encroachment? The so-called protected areas where they can be easily poached? The urban areas where wild animals have already been forced to spill in to and exploit due to habitat loss and which are already at saturation and causing a lot of the pandemics like the one we are experiencing now? As for individuals being stolen from the wild. Yes, wild animals are captured for pet trade and entertainment. However this is as a result of humans trying to profit from these practices with zoos picking up the pieces and having to try to rehome these badly abused unsocialised animals. Please educate yourself.

    • Replies to Roger Stevens>

      Comment by James Fellows posted on

      Clearly you don't have a clue, so I've copied your comment to share everywhere.

      Roger Stevens posted onon 04 June 2020

      Future of zoos as they are currently operated is under more scrutiny than ever. The little amount of conservation work does not justify keeping so many animals in captivity where they are unable to perform natural behaviour. Accredited sanctuaries would be a less human centric alternative if they cannot be rehabilitated and returned to the wild where they were, in many cases, stolen from. I consider govt support is inappropriate on ethical and animal welfare grounds.

      Link to this comment

    • Replies to Roger Stevens>

      Comment by John posted on

      Obviously not done any research before you made this inaccurate statement have you.

    • Replies to Roger Stevens>

      Comment by Tim posted on

      Zoos offer round the clock care for some of the world's most endangered species , many of which would have gone extinct without zoo intervention and captive breeding programmes. To name a few :

      - Black Footed ferrets
      -Scimitar Horned Oryx
      -Przewalski Horses
      -European Bison
      - Californian Condor
      -Golden Tail Tamarin

      Please define how zoos and sanctuaries are different,please also point out safe areas where zoo animals can be released into the wild where they won't be affected by poaching, habitat loss and disrupt the balance of the ecosystem by adding more competion for resources.

    • Replies to Roger Stevens>

      Comment by R A Hill posted on

      Lots of assertions here, but there is little or no evidence to back them up. There is conservation work going on in zoos - there has to be, otherwise they would not be granted Zoo Licences. A lot of this work is invisible to visitors as it happens off-show and increasingly in the animals' native countries. There is also vital educational work. The vast majority of animals in British zoos were born in zoos, very few are 'stolen' from the wild because of CITES regulations: if such animals are smuggled into the UK, they are confiscated but they can rarely be returned safely and so they are placed in zoos. Where are the 'accredited sanctuaries' in the UK? Apart from a few small private collections, I can't think of any which do not admit paying visitors, which means that in legal terms they are zoos!

    • Replies to Roger Stevens>

      Comment by Louise posted on

      As someone who’s dedicated their life to conservation through working in a zoological institution, it breaks my heart to read your comment. So much good work is done in zoos throughout the UK, but sadly good news never radiates through the media like a ‘bad zoo story’
      I’ve worked with some of the rarest species on earth, both in the zoo and in the field, applying what I’ve learned to preserving wild populations.
      You sell zoo keepers short

    • Replies to Roger Stevens>

      Comment by James Oliver posted on

      Apart from the economic effect on the region if Chester zoo closes there is an animal welfare issue as it would be impossible to rehouse 35000 animals so a significant number would die. Chester zoo is constantly evolving to make better habitats for the animals and do vital conservation work around the world and with projects such as sustainable palm oil. Whether zoos are still appropriate is an issue for another time. This is an urgent issue that needs addressing now.

    • Replies to Roger Stevens>

      Comment by Joana Ventura posted on

      I agree, but that isn’t the question at hand. That transition from zoo to sanctuary can be done later. Most zoos are about 2 weeks away from shutting down and if they can’t afford to keep them open, do you think they’ll be able to just send them off to a sanctuary? It sounds like they’ll just put the animals down. Also to mention that zoos are important tourist attractions where social distancing can be managed.

  136. Comment by Matthew Peace posted on

    This is utter nonsense, my wife works in a small clothes shop which is opening later this month yet a huge outdoor zoo can't open.
    Shame on Defra, they're not fit for purpose.

  137. Comment by Mick Walters posted on

    A lot of words that say nothing.