The London Zoo and its important conservation activities are without direct support for a dangerous future due to the Covid-19 lock.
World-renowned charity Zoological Society of London said the site and sister site Whipsnade Zoo, Bedfordshire, have been closed to visitors since March 20-21 due to the pandemic.
They are closed for most of the high season, including Easter school holidays, when they would expect 250,000 visitors, and two public holidays in May.
The core income has dried up, while the costs for caregivers and veterinarians to care for 20,000 animals, many of which are rare and endangered, remain the same.
Zoo revenues also cover scientific research institutes and global wildlife conservation programs, which help wildlife, investigate wildlife diseases, and work to prevent illegal wildlife trafficking.
Director General Dominic Jermey said the situation put him in a “very challenging” position.
ZSL said it struggled to get financial support from banks as the organization has no history of loans and no access to the type of large commercial loan it needs.
Ministers announced a £ 14 million fund to support zoos affected by the pandemic closure, but ZSL said the focus was on small grants for small zoos and an institution of this size needs much greater support.
The charity has warned that zoos will face an uncertain future without financial support.
Mr. Jermey told the PA news agency: “We have good faith conversations with very generous people who have supported us in the past, and with banks, to ensure that the future does not remain dangerous.
“But at the moment it is a very challenging moment for the organization.”
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The idea that the pandemic could mean the end of the London Zoo “would be absolutely unthinkable,” he said.
“But the clear facts of any organization are that we cannot continue to work without income.”
Mr Jermey said the zoos have planned measures for visitors if the lock is relaxed. These include contactless payments, hygiene points, a one-way system at the London Zoo, and an outdoor-only experience to begin with.
He said London Zoo was closed only once for two weeks during the Blitz before reopening at the request of the government to boost morale in the capital.
While acknowledging that the government had a lot in hand, he said, “a national institution like ZSL and its zoos cannot slip through the cracks.”
* ZSL has also launched a fundraiser for members of the public to support the zoos and their work: zsl.org/donate