Thank you to everyone who contacted me about the impact of the coronavirus lockdown on zoos, aquariums and wildlife sanctuaries.
I understand that lockdown restrictions put in place on 23rd March, urging people to stay at home and save lives, meant that zoos and aquariums across the country had to temporarily close in order to keep staff and visitors safe. I know that many zoos, aquariums and wildlife sanctuaries are facing considerable financial difficulties due to the loss of income from visitor admissions, at what is typically their busiest time of the year.
It is welcome that from 15th June, outdoor areas of zoos and safari parks have been allowed to reopen, subject to appropriate social distancing measures being put in place. This includes keeping indoor exhibitions, such as reptile houses and those in aquariums, closed, and ensuring other amenities like cafes offer takeaway services only.
In addition, I am aware that a £14 million Zoos Support Fund was opened in May to help zoos experiencing significant financial distress to cover animal keeping costs, such as for food, heating and security. This fund remains open until 19th July 2020.
The Government says that officials in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will continue to meet on a weekly basis with the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) and with the CEOs of the largest charitable zoos and aquariums in England to monitor the situation. I hope the Government will continue to engage with and support the sector at this difficult time.