The impact of COVID-19 on British and Irish Zoos and Aquariums.

ZSL London Zoo

As the association for zoos and aquariums, BIAZA is working hard to help the zoo and aquarium sector in this unprecedented situation.

Dr Madelon Willemsen, CEO of BIAZA, said:

“The Coronavirus itself and the uncertainty of when it will be possible for zoos and aquariums to open their gates again for visitors make this an extraordinary challenge for our sector. As the trade association for good zoos and aquariums, BIAZA is working to raise our collective voice and rally the expertise of our membership. We will collaborate with other sectors, working closely with government, so that the sector can pull through this crisis”.

  • Zoos and aquariums have a number of contingency plans in place to mitigate risk. One of these risks is the loss of income resulting from the need to close the gates due to any unforeseen circumstances, in this case the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Through BIAZA’s efforts and membership requirements, members of our community are well prepared for such circumstances.
  • Nonetheless income has stopped overnight. Unlike most other sectors, zoos and aquariums will need to continue to provide for the animals in their care ensuring they comply with the moral and statutory requirements of animal welfare standards [Zoo Licensing Act 1981]
  • Approximately 40% of BIAZA zoos and aquariums are charities, and have also lost the majority of the charitable donations they would receive under normal circumstances.
  • Good zoos and aquariums, such as our BIAZA members, will not compromise on animal welfare.
  • Contingencies include plans for the continued care of animals and safe operation of their sites to meet BIAZA’s strict policies. However, different zoos and aquariums will approach their challenges in different ways, while adhering to these policies.


  • Zoos and aquariums are having to change the way they operate to minimise the spread of Covid-19 between essential staff, and to protect their animals:
    • Many are dividing essential keepers into two or more teams and keeping them strictly separated and some can bring their essential staff in to live on site.
    • They are increasing the PPE used whilst working closely with animals and preparing their feeds.
    • Zoos and aquariums in the UK have found ways to stay in touch with the public through virtual keeper talks and web cams, and updates on conservation projects [more information below]. They have also started fundraising through different channels, including websites and social media.
  • Zoos and aquariums have acted quickly to ensure they can stretch their budgets to continue to provide the highest standard of care to their animals until visitors are able to return. Our members are utilising all possible support measures put in place by Government, and those surveyed have successfully reduced costs by an average of 39%. Zoos and aquariums have furloughed non-essential staff and are running on reduced operations to provide animal welfare and care. 61% of staff at zoos and aquariums surveyed by BIAZA were furloughed on average.
  • However, the scale of the pandemic, the uncertainty of the duration of the lock-down and the unpredictable rate of return of visitors once restrictions are lifted mean that these contingency plans, so diligently put in place, may not be sufficient to prevent some zoos and aquariums from facing possible permanent closure.

BIAZA has brought together an extensive library of COVID-19 resources relevant to the zoos and aquariums (available to members and non-members). BIAZA is working closely with government hoping that support can be provided to the members and all licenced zoos and aquariums. BIAZA has been issuing daily updates to support our sector through this crisis and keep them abreast of the latest developments.

What can you do?

Many zoos and aquariums are fundraising on their website and across social media. This is an unprecedented situation and BIAZA knows that our zoos and aquariums would welcome many offers of support.


Further information

Some examples of online virtual resources;

Northumberland zoo -

Hanwell zoo - #BringingTheZooToYou


BIAZA is the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums; the association representing only good zoos and aquariums in Britain and Ireland. Currently there are 122 members who pride themselves on their excellent animal welfare, education and conservation work.