ZSL Whipsnade Zoo welcomes change of heart on zoo closure

ZSL Whipsnade and London Zoo ready to open their gates after three months of lockdown
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Whipsnade Zoo is set to resume bookings on Friday in anticipation of welcoming back visitors next week after months of closure during the coronavirus lockdown.

Responding to news that the government is set to announce that zoos can reopen in line with the latest easing of lockdown, ZSL Director General, Dominic Jermey, said: “We are delighted at the news that the Government may allow ZSL London and Whipsnade zoos to reopen as early as next week.

“Thousands of members of the public have written to their MPs to express their faith in the Zoos’ safety measures and their concern for ZSL’s continued survival - we are grateful for everyone’s support - we can’t wait to welcome visitors through our gates as soon as we are able.

Cheetah at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo (C) ZSL Whipsnade ZooCheetah at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo (C) ZSL Whipsnade Zoo
Cheetah at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo (C) ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

“As we explained in detail to government, we have redesigned our zoos, set in acres of parkland, to make them COVID-secure - our zoos will look, feel and be safe, with a whole range of measures introduced, including additional handwashing facilities and sanitiser stations across our zoos, fun and engaging wayfinders, 2m distance markers laid out in exhibits and one-way routes introduced to manage the flow of visitors safely.

“Both ZSL London and Whipsnade Zoos are open-air spaces accessible by car, bike or on foot and offer vital opportunities for people to safely enjoy the outdoors in the heart of their communities - both have made extensive alterations to accommodate social distancing while still providing a wonderful day out.

“We are waiting to hear more details from the government, but our zoos are raring to go as soon as we are given the go ahead.

“We expect to have tickets ready to book by Friday - and everyone will need to book so we can manage capacity. We hope the support we’ve seen so far for our zoos translates to visitors coming in to support us further.

Asian elephant at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo (C) ZSL Whipsnade ZooAsian elephant at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo (C) ZSL Whipsnade Zoo
Asian elephant at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo (C) ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

“But re-opening the zoos cannot be the end of the story.

"After being closed for so many months, reopening ZSL’s zoos will by no means be an instant fix: as an international conservation charity which relies heavily on zoo ticket sales to fund our vital work, we will still urgently need support to keep our two zoos running smoothly, our scientists investigating wildlife diseases such as Covid-19, and our conservationists working in the field to protect Critically Endangered species.”

The news comes after both South West Bedfordshire's MP Andrew Selous and Sarah Owen, MP for Luton North, pledged support for the zoo's bid to reopen.

Mr Selous said: “It is not right that National Trust and other gardens are now open, welcome though that is, while zoos remain closed.

“Whipsnade is on a 600 acre site and is therefore an ideal location to fully respect all social distancing requirements.”

Ms Owen added: “I have written to the government and asked if they can confirm if they have considered the ZSL’s plans to make their Whipsnade site Covid-secure.

“Whilst the Zoo Support Fund has been established to cover animal care costs, as literature published by the fund itself states, it cannot “guarantee to save every zoo and aquarium business or job”.