More than £1.5 million has been raised for Chester Zoo after it revealed it was fighting for its future due to an indefinite closure.

Zoo bosses launched the Save Our Zoo campaign on Wednesday and revealed the attraction was "at risk of extinction" and could end the year £24 million in debt as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Social distancing measures at Chester Zoo Credit: PA Pictures

Extensive social distancing measures have been put in place at the 128-acre site, which is the UK's most visited zoo and most visited tourist attraction outside London.

The Zoo said they had been hopeful of being allowed to re-open, but the latest guidance from Government officials was that they would remain closed ''indefinitely.''

Baby elephant Riva Hi Way - a recent arrival at Chester Zoo Credit: PA Pictures

"Not being able to open, despite being a huge outdoor site with all the necessary safety measures in place, is having a devastating impact on the future survival of this much-loved charity zoo.

Jamie Christon, Chester Zoo
The zoo has held on-line tours during lockdown Credit: PA Pictures

"We absolutely refuse to cut corners when it comes to caring for the animals. But ensuring that each and every one of the 35,000 animals at the zoo is receiving the best possible care, every single day, comes at a huge financial cost," Jamie added.

Edward Timpson, Conservative MP for the Cheshire constituency of Eddisbury, said he had written to George Eustice, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, to ask for the zoo to be able to reopen as soon as possible.

In the letter, he said: "I have been visiting Chester Zoo with my family ever since I was a child and so I know there are many good reasons why it is the most visited zoo in the country, as well as a much-loved local asset."

Cheshire Labour MPs Chris Matheson, Justin Madders and Mike Amesbury also wrote to Mr Eustice and, in a joint letter, said they had been "inundated" with emails from constituents upset about the risk of losing the zoo.

The letter said: "Whilst it is fully recognised that there is a need to reopen business in a safe manner, it seems illogical that Chester Zoo must remain closed while ticketed gardens are reopening and non-essential retail will be opening in just a few weeks."

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: "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."