Coronavirus: £100m rescue package for England’s zoos

A pedestrian walks past a poster featuring meerkats at London Zoo. Photo: Reuters

Zoos and aquariums in England are set to receive up to £100m ($123m) in coronavirus financial aid from the government.

The funding, which is an expansion of the £14m initial relief fund announced in May, will run until the end of March 2021.

In England, zoos and aquariums have been allowed to reopen outdoor spaces since 15 June, subject to social distancing measures being in place.

From 4 July, indoor areas such as cafés and exhibits will be able to follow suit.

Allowing these businesses to fully reopen is a vital step towards enabling them to cover some of the cost of animal care, said animal welfare minister Lord Goldsmith who announced the rescue package.

Throughout the pandemic, zoos have had to continue covering the costs of animal feed, heating and security despite being closed.

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“Allowing zoos to reopen has taken off some of the pressure, but the coronavirus pandemic has left them facing long-term financial problems. This funding will therefore be a lifeline for our zoos and aquariums and ensure the quality of animal care continues over the coming months," said Lord Goldsmith.

Dr Simon Girling, chair of the zoo experts committee, said they welcomed the support package which would ensure the "ongoing care" of animals and "valuable conservation work."

Establishments covered by the Zoo Licensing Act will be able to bid for a portion of the £100m.

There are a number of support schemes already available to zoos, including the job retention scheme, VAT deferral, business rates relief, the business interruption loan schemes and grant funding of up to £25,000.