Banham Zoo and Africa Alive! on verge of collapse because of coronavirus

PUBLISHED: 09:45 05 June 2020 | UPDATED: 17:59 05 June 2020

Banham Zoo and Africa Alive! say they could collapse unless they can reopen soon. Pic: Archant

Banham Zoo and Africa Alive! say they could collapse unless they can reopen soon. Pic: Archant

The bosses of two of the region’s zoos say the venues are “finished” if the government delays reopening until August.

Banham Zoo. Pic: Archant library/Joshua DyballBanham Zoo. Pic: Archant library/Joshua Dyball

The two managing directors who run Banham Zoo in Norfolk and Africa Alive! in Suffolk, say the tourist attractions, which have been closed since March because of coronavirus, do not have enough cashflow to keep going until August.

They are desperately calling on the government to allow them to reopen. The Zoological Society of East Anglia – which runs both zoos – is set to meet DEFRA officials with the support of local MPS ahead of a debate in parliament on June 11.

The managing directors said a bank loan which the charity secured for £900,000 had a repayment plan over six years although they had asked for it over 25 years. The loan was based on the zoos reopening from June – so if reopening is delayed, they believe it “could collapse”.

Claudia Roberts, MD. Pic: submittedClaudia Roberts, MD. Pic: submitted

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It comes after the zoos announced last week they were cutting almost 70 jobs after losing £1.5m in admission takings since lockdown.

Claudia Roberts, commercial managing director, said: “If we can’t reopen in July, it could finish us. Garden centres could put plants in the bin, but what would we and all other zoos across the country be expected to do with our animals if we had to close?

Claudia Roberts, MD. Pic: submittedClaudia Roberts, MD. Pic: submitted

“We are incredibly frustrated and disappointed by the ambiguity of the government in allowing places like garden centres, parks, shops and beaches to reopen and not zoos. Africa Alive! and Banham Zoo are in spacious open parkland. They’re in a controlled environment and we’ve invested to get everything safe and ready for visitors to return.”

Chairman of ZSEA Gerard Smith said: “Both zoos were turned down for the government zoo grants of £100,000 because the rules were that they were only for zoos which had less than six weeks of cashflow and at the time we had 10 weeks of cash. The welfare of animals is the highest priority and we’d never want to let the zoos get to such a cliff edge, but that was then and the reality right now is that we are edging towards that cliff edge every day.”

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