While the government’s proposals look set to see zoos, safari parks and drive-in cinemas reopen on June 15, Marwell Zoo have said early July is its more likely opening time.
Chief executive James Cretney said: ‘We’re delighted that zoos will finally be able to reopen and are looking forward to welcoming guests back very soon. However, we’ve always been working towards the government’s original indicated reopening date of early July as part of Stage three of the UK’s Covid-19 recovery strategy.
‘Our priority continues to be the safety of our guests, staff and animals. We are now busy making the necessary changes including bringing back and safety training our furloughed staff and installing all the physical measures to ensure guests can safely enjoy our 140-acre zoo.
‘As soon as the preparations are complete, we will reopen.’
The zoo is putting in place a number of strategies to maintain social distancing and mitigate the risk of coronavirus infection.
As well as limiting visitor numbers, measures will include two metre floor markings at enclosures and queues, one-way routes on narrow paths, multiple hand sanitising points and a strict ongoing cleaning regime.
James added: ‘The zoo may feel a bit different when we open but it will be the same warm welcome from all of us.’
The zoo’s boss was also keen to stress the financial difficulties endured during lockdown and the importance of continued public support.
James said: ‘Unlike many organisations, our costs are incredibly high, around £600,000 a month to ensure our animals receive the same high standards of care they are used to. So each day the zoo is closed to guests, our need for the public’s support grows to help us cover basic costs such as animal food and bedding.
“It is great news the government has acknowledged the importance of supporting us to care for our incredible animals while giving families more options to reconnect with the natural world and spend time safely outdoors – it will take us a long time to recover.’
To help deal with the costs of caring for the animals during lockdown, the zoo has set up its own fundraising appeal which has so far raised over £43,000.
James commented: ‘We’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity of our supporters during these unprecedented times.’ .
The prime minister is set to confirm the opening of some outdoor attractions such as zoos during this afternoon’s (June 10) coronavirus press conference.
A Downing Street official said: ‘This is by necessity a careful process, but we hope the reopening of safari parks and zoos will help provide families with more options to spend time outdoors while supporting the industry caring for these incredible animals.
‘Where we can safely open up more attractions, and it is supported by the science, we will do so.’