Robert Everett

Charity warns Government: don’t fail zoo and aquariums

Posted: 9th April, 2021
  • Zoos and safari parks in England are preparing to welcome visitors from Monday with stringent safety measures in place.
  • Figures from BIAZA show zoos in England have only been able to fully open for 38 days and have been fully closed for 207 days since the beginning of the first lockdown.
  • Survey of 95 zoos shows average losses of nearly £2m per organisation between 2019 and 2020.
  • BIAZA zoos and aquariums saw 18 million fewer visits compared to a normal year
  • Sector frustrated by a lack of Government support for zoos and aquariums as 93% of a £100m support scheme is unspent


As zoos and safari parks in England prepare to welcome visitors through their gates the British and Irish Association for Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) has issued a warning to Government ministers that zoos, safari parks and aquariums continue to need support as they recover from the impacts of the pandemic.  BIAZA says zoos and aquariums face a precarious year and have not received the same level of support other types of cultural and heritage organisations have been able to rely on through the pandemic.


Research conducted by the charity shows zoos and aquariums in England have been fully closed for 207 days since the pandemic took hold, which has resulted in millions of pounds of lost income, whilst they continue to incur the high costs of high-quality animal welfare throughout lockdowns. A recent survey by BIAZA shows an average loss of nearly £2m for zoos, with the largest zoos incurring many times this amount.


Dr Jo Judge, CEO of BIAZA spoke out: “Like many organisations, zoos and aquariums have been devastated by the pandemic. But unlike other organisations zoos and aquariums have not been able to rely on Government assistance and by far the majority have fallen through the cracks in Government support, despite their importance to wildlife conservation, education and research.”


BIAZA warns the current scheme to support zoos and aquariums has largely failed to support the sector. Less than 10% of the Government’s Zoo Animals Fund has been spent, with the design of the scheme, requiring zoos to be down to unacceptably low levels of reserves before they can access the Fund meaning it has been impossible for the majority of zoos to access much-needed help. BIAZA is calling for future sources of funding (made available to other cultural and heritage attractions) to be opened up to zoos and aquariums.


Good zoos, aquariums and safari parks are growing in popularity. Visitor numbers were increasing pre-pandemic and Chester Zoo is the most visited attraction outside of London. Despite this popularity zoos have been specifically excluded from funding schemes such as the Cultural Recovery Fund. Furthermore, they have not been able to make full use of support schemes such as furlough as animals still require dedicated care.


In normal times, BIAZA zoos and aquariums have global impact, participating in over 800 conservation projects, 1,400 research projects, delivering formal education sessions to over one million students and contributing millions each year to field conservation in 105 different countries. Research published this year shows that just nine UK zoos and aquariums are responsible for keeping 29 species native to Britain and the Overseas Territories from extinction and restoring dozens more.


“Zoos and aquariums have no access to Government support as cultural institutions,  no access to support as tourist destinations and only very limited support as conservation organisations. After a year of closures and financial blows they face a precarious future. We are hugely grateful for the continued support of the public, and are pleased to finally be welcoming back our visitors. With their support we look forward to being able to get back to conserving and sharing the wonders of nature.”  Continued Dr Judge.