I have received a number of emails from constituents regarding the future of zoos and aquariums as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Government has listened to these concerns and has recently launched a £14 million support fund ringfenced for zoos and aquariums. I know that zoos are continuing to work at this time in order to ensure that their animal welfare standards are upheld, and the animals’ health needs continue to be met, which is an expensive practice.
I am pleased that this funding will help zoos cover any costs relating to the upkeep of animal welfare, such as feed, heating, and security. This is on top of a number of support schemes already available to zoos - including business rates relief, the business interruption loan scheme, VAT deferral, and the job retention scheme.
I have spoken to Ministers who have assured me that they will continue to work with our zoos across the country to discuss additional concerns about funding in the long term. Specifically, the Government has been talking with the main industry association - the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) - and with individual zoos about the best way forward. They are also taking expert advice from the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs’ Zoos Expert Committee.
Work is also ongoing to understand how and when zoos may be able to reopen in a safe way to the public while maintaining social distancing. I will be supporting this effort, and hope to see zoos re-open, safely, in the near future.
UPDATE: Zoos will now be able to re-open from 15 June.