‘We desperately need a significant injection of cash’, says boss of Whipsnade Zoo

May 20, 2020

Rare Pere-David fawns born at Whipsnade Zoo earlier this year.

ZSL director general warns that lack of funding during coronavirus leaves its future ‘hanging in the balance’ and appeals for public support

THE FUTURE of Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire is hanging in the balance as the organisation battles for financial survival.

A lack of funding as a result of the coronavirus pandemic has left the future of the Zoological Society of London’s iconic zoos London and Whipsnade in serious jeopardy, according to ZSL’s director general Dominic Jermey.

He issued a plea for financial help from the public, including the business community, after ZSL was dealt a new blow in its campaign for funds. Negotiations to secure the extra funding ZSL needs have foundered after the banks said they could not provide the kind of major loan ZSL need, even under the government’s special coronavirus schemes.

Dominic Jermey, director general of the Zoological Society of London which runs Whipsnade Zoo

“Having already cut off ZSL’s income, Covid-19 dealt us a fresh blow from which we are reeling,” Mr Jermey said in a statement on ZSL’s website. “This is because, as a responsibly run charity investing in conservation, we do not generate the cash required to pay off bank debt.

“Conversations with the bank continue; they want to help. Ironically, ZSL entered this crisis with no debt and decent reserves. Without income, those reserves are dwindling and we now desperately need a significant injection of cash to help us through this Covid-19 crisis.”

Public support and donations are already pouring in. To donate, click here.

Whipsnade, like London Zoo, has been closed to the public since the start of lockdown on March 23. ZSL is working on its plans to reopen safely and responsibly as it waits for guidance as to when it can welcome animal lovers through its gates once more.

But Mr Jermey said that ZSL is currently in an “unthinkable” position. “With its zoos shut to the public, the future of this iconic national institution, with all its science and global conservation, hangs in the balance,” he added.

“You cannot simply mothball a zoo and furlough all the staff to save money – our 20,000 giraffes, tigers, lions, meerkats, penguins and other animals need us as much today as any other day. Fighting the illegal wildlife trade across Africa and Asia, a likely cause of this pandemic, cannot just stop.”

A rockhopper penguin chick hatched at Whipsnade and named Wilfred after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s newborn son.

As a charity, ZSL does not receive regular government funding in the same way as the likes of the Natural History Museum and Kew Gardens. “ZSL’s world-leading science and conservation work is underpinned by the money we earn, with every penny put into achieving our vision of a world where wildlife thrives,” said Mr Jermey. 

Scientists at the Institute of Zoology at London Zoo may hold the key to preventing future pandemics like COVID-19. “Our pioneering research feeds into governments at the highest level, helping to set policy on crucial topics including infectious disease that crosses species barriers like Ebola and bovine TB. 

“Our global network of conservationists work with local communities to bring back species from the brink of extinction and shape the understanding of how we can reverse the global loss of biodiversity. ZSL’s zoological and conservation knowledge, experience and expertise is more valuable to the UK than ever.”

He acknowledged that the government was facing an “immense” challenge. “The measures put in place by government to support businesses are unprecedented, including the zoo fund announced by DEFRA to support small zoos. Mechanisms like the furlough scheme make a real difference,” said Mr Jermey.

“But national institutions such as ZSL and its zoos cannot slip through the cracks. Now is the time for the UK to show its commitment to ZSL’s globally important role before our unthinkable position becomes an untenable one. 

“Britain must continue its long-standing global leadership in zoological discovery and scientific endeavour. ZSL can help make sure that happens.”

by ANDREW GIBBS e: news@businessmk.co.uk

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