London Zoo fighting for survival as government cash 'goes unspent'

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London Zoo says it is fighting for survival because it can't access government cash to help during the Covid pandemic.

Earlier this year the government announced a £100m zoo animals fund to give grants to struggling zoos.

But the cash is not released until the zoo gets down to its last 12 weeks of funding which many say is "irresponsible". The money can only be used for essential animal care, such as food or vet bills.

"It's a fund which we understand at the moment is 90% unspent", said Dominic Jermey Director General at wildlife conservation charity ZSL.

"Zoos that are within 12 weeks of running out of cash, of closing down - any decently run organisation is going to ensure their animals are dispersed in other locations if they were ever close to getting to that position," he added.

London Zoo spends £20,000-a-month alone on fruit and vegetables for the animals. The lack of money is also having an impact on breeding programmes.

"With no money coming in we have had to reduce our costs to lay off staff and postpone some of the critical deliveries that we would normally carry out. And that has a big impact on our staff and visitors and our conservation activities," Mr Jermey said.

Less than £10m of the grant money has been given out so far and ZSL has signed an open letter with other zoos across the country asking the government to change the criteria.

The government says the fund is meant to be a safety net designed to maintain animal welfare, not to make sure the zoos themselves survive.