Zoos and safari parks across the West Country are preparing to reopen but many are in financial crisis

Zoos and safari parks across the West Country are preparing to reopen from next week (June 15) after warning they face a funding crisis if they remain closed.

Boris Johnson has announced the reopening of outdoor attractions such as zoos, safari parks and drive-in cinemas, alongside non-essential shops.

Some zoos across the West Country have reported financial struggles during the pandemic after closing their doors to the public during lockdown.

  • Wild Planet Trust (Newquay Zoo, Paignton Zoo and Living Coasts Torquay)

Newquay Zoo, Paignton Zoo and Living Coasts in Torquay released a joing statement saying they are "not in a position to open" despite the Government plans.

They said: "We furloughed all non-essential staff in order to save costs so that we could be in a position to re-open when we were allowed later in the year. While the zoos have been closed we have had no income, apart from a small amount of funds kindly raised by our supporters through our fundraising campaign.

"This means that we have not had the staff working in order to the get the zoos ready to open earlier than we expected. We are already £3 million down on our expected financial position at this time of year."

  • The Cornish Seal Sanctuary

The Cornish Seal Sanctuary is facing "tremendous debt and an uncertain future" after almost three months of closure.

The sanctuary furloughed 90% of their non-animal care team and secured a loan under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.

Lockdown had a serious impact on the sanctuary, with 80% of its funding coming from visitors during the spring and summer seasons.

They says it costs a minimum of £23,000 a month to look after the animals with further costs going towards utilities, insurance and non-animal related essential staff costs.

June and July is the 'pup rescue season'. Credit: ITV West Country

The charity were refused the 'much needed' Government zoo grant leading to them writing an open letter to the government asking for support during the crisis.

The sanctuary faces further pressure as June and July sees the breeding season for common seals, which is the sanctuary's 'pup rescue season'.

Each rescued seal pup costs on average £2,000 to rehabilitate and the charity rescue around 70 seals each season.

Newborn Mullet was rescued in 2018 from Trevaunance Cove after being abandoned by his mother. Credit: ITV West Country

General Manager Jana Sirova said: "We are all emotionally exhausted! This has been very challenging time for the team at the sanctuary to keep financially afloat while ensuring we are providing the best care to our animals.

"It came as a shock to learn we were not successful in securing the Government zoo grant, with the response stating we were not eligible as we’ve already received aid in the form of a CBIL loan."

  • Bristol Aquarium

Bristol Aquarium has had a core team onsite during the lockdown to care for the animals.

In a statement they said: "Standing alongside fellow Zoos and Aquariums across the UK, Bristol Aquarium is eagerly waiting for permission from the UK Government to re-open its door to the public.

"Parliamentary members will debate the opening plans of Zoos and Aquariums this Thursday (11 June) at the request of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

"Outgoings to care for resident animals has been continuous throughout the closure as staff became key workers to look after them during the lockdown. It is therefore heart-breaking to not be able to join non-essential shops who are getting ready to open their doors."

  • Bristol Zoological Society (Bristol Zoo Gardens and Wild Place Project)

Bristol Zoological Society - which operate Wild Place Project in South Gloucestershire and Bristol Zoo Gardens - say the Government's move is a 'great first step'.

Bristol Zoo Gardens had just yesterday (Tuesday 9 June) warned that its future is "seriously at stake" if it were to remain closed.

The Society is planning the reopening of both zoos which will now run via online bookings to allow for timed entry slots. An expected opening date is yet to be announced.

Wild Place Project has had a one-way system installed across the site, along with extra hand-washing facilities and signs to remind people of social distancing.

It will also be essential for visitors to buy timed tickets in advance of their visit and existing members will also be asked to pre-book their timed visit slot.

Giant tortoise numbers are ticked off during the annual stocktake at Bristol Zoo. Credit: PA Images

Dr Justin Morris, Chief Executive of Bristol Zoological Society, said that despite plans to reopen, zoos are still under significant financial pressure following huge revenue losses, and ongoing concerns about future revenue.

He said: “There is no doubt that this is excellent news for us as well as zoos across the UK.

"But we are still in a very difficult position financially and we are not on safe ground yet."

A Lowland gorilla at Bristol Zoo Gardens. Credit: PA Images
  • Noah's Ark Zoo Farm, Bristol

Staff at Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm, in Wraxall near Bristol, had been expecting a July opening and said they were "excited about the prospect of welcoming visitors back earlier than anticipated".

Just before the zoo had to close, they welcomed a baby zebra to the family which the keepers named Hope as "she brought so much happiness to the whole zoo team".

Hope - seen here with mum Polly - gave keepers Hope when she was born days before the lockdown. Credit: Noah's Ark Zoo Farm
A Bengal tiger at Noah's Ark Zoo Farm. Credit: PA Images

A spokesperson said: "We will be announcing our dates for re-opening after the full government guidelines for zoos are published this weekend.”