Will zoos survive the coronavirus crisis?

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Paul Davies

With the zoos around the world forced to close to visitors for months due to coronavirus restrictions, will sites be able to survive the crisis?

Zoos have been taking measures to try and conserve funds, at times forced to return animals due to a lack of resources.

Canada's Calgary Zoo has had to return two giant pandas on loan from China because a lack of flights causing problems with getting enough bamboo to feed them.

The zoo's president, Clement Lanthier, said the facility spent months trying to overcome transport barriers in acquiring fresh bamboo and decided it was best for the animals to be in China - where their main food source is abundant.

Giraffes Maggie and Molly stand under a sign showing support for the NHS at ZSL London Zoo. Credit: PA

In the UK, the Zoological Society of London has warned its zoos - and the conservation work it carries out - faces a perilous future.

The world-famous ZSL London Zoo and its sister site Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire, have both been closed to visitors since the end of March - missing out on most of the peak season.

With no visitors, core income has dried up while costs for keepers and vets to care for 20,000 animals, many of them rare and endangered, remain the same.

The Government has announced a £14 million fund to support zoos hit by the pandemic lockdown - but the ZSL said this would be of more help to smaller businesses rather than a large scale organisation like their own.

At Colchester Zoo, there has been no income for nearly two months - with gates closed to visitors.

It costs £25,000 each day to care for the 1,500 animals housed at the zoo.

Curator Sarah Forsyth says the Colchester Zoo might not survive unless it opens soon: "Pretty much every zoo in the UK at the moment is wondering whether or not they've got a future.

"If things don't open up to us soon there is a real chance that a lot of us will have to close".

  • ITV News Correspondent Paul Davies reports on the situation at Colchester Zoo:

Elsewhere, loneliness is thought to be impacting animals in some zoos and wildlife parks.

Some of the animals at Tayto Park are missing human visitors and interaction, the zoo's manager has warned.

The Co Meath theme park is closed to the public, meaning day to day life for many of the animals has become very quiet.

Park manager Lee Donohoe said that the primates, including monkeys and great apes, as well as marsupial animals are missing human interaction.

"Normally at this stage of the year we have a few thousand people walking around the grounds," Mr Donohoe said.

"Some of the animals interact with the public, so there’s a stimulus there for them, but because we are closed for three months some of the animals are used to quiet periods."

Mounted police stand behind donated food and medicine for the animals at the Santacruz Zoo. Credit: AP

At the end of April, the situation was dire for one zoo in Colombia.

The Santacruz Zoo - which depends on daily ticket sales to feed the animals - relied on donations of food and money to keep the animals healthy.

Financial contributions from local government only covered one week of the zoo's upkeep.