Sir David Attenborough steps in to help ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

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The broadcaster is fronting the campaign to save Whipsnade and London Zoo

Sir David Attenborough is fronting an appeal to raise millions of pounds to save Whipsnade Zoo.

Both Whipsnade Zoo and London Zoo were forced to close just before the country went into lockdown in March, although they re-opened last week, they still need public’s help to keep the zoos running.

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The appeal aims to raise £12million - £1million a month - for both zoos, to cover the feed and care of the animals for one year, and give the zoos breathing space to get back on their feet.

Launch of Amphibian Arks Year of the Frog campaign in 2008 (C) ZSLLaunch of Amphibian Arks Year of the Frog campaign in 2008 (C) ZSL
Launch of Amphibian Arks Year of the Frog campaign in 2008 (C) ZSL

To feed and care for the 22,000 animals costs around £1m each month. Another £1.3 is spent on science, conservation in the UK and overseas, and on central costs.

The business model of zoos means they typically make losses through the winter, and then make up all the shortfall over the peak period in the summer.

Coronavirus hit just as they were about to hit their peak season at Easter, they have also missed two school holidays and three bank holidays.

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A spokesperson for ZSL said: "To give some context to our losses, our key Easter and May holiday periods would usually see joint takings of £7.8m.

Whipsnade Zoo re-opened last week (C) ZSLWhipsnade Zoo re-opened last week (C) ZSL
Whipsnade Zoo re-opened last week (C) ZSL

"That’s made up of £4.8m on the gate and another £3m on food, drink and souvenirs.

"As well as our fixed costs, we have needed to invest money during lockdown to create Covid-secure zoos where visitor can enjoy a great, but safe, day out. This includes thousands of floor markers, directional signs and safety guidance across both zoos.

"These heavy financial losses cannot be recovered operating with reduced capacity in the zoos, and limited opportunity for visitors to spend on catering and retail.

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"It all adds up to a difficult picture of recovery that is by no means guaranteed. By the end of 2020 we will have lost income worth many millions, with our reserves sitting at almost nothing."

Sir David Attenborough is fronting the fundraising campaign for the zoos.

He said: "The Zoological Society of London has made an outstanding contribution to conservation and to our understanding of wildlife for 200 years.

"ZSL now faces its toughest challenge to date - Coronavirus led to the sustained closure of London and Whipsnade Zoo cutting off vital income.

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"Put bluntly, this national institution is now, itself, at risk of extinction.

"Its two zoos, London and Whipsnade, are home to over 20,000 animals, many of which are globally threatened and some already extinct in the wild.

"ZSL has already supported the re-introduction of some of the most threatened species back into the wild and helped to increase wildlife populations globally.

"With 75 per cent of new infectious diseases, including COVID-19, originating from animals, ZSL’s work researching and tackling these issues is needed now more than ever.

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"Without your help, we could see the closure of the world’s oldest scientific zoo, home to thousands of animals and the place where generations of people have forged a love of wildlife through their joyful encounters with animals.

"Now more than ever we must support the work of this global conservation charity."

ZSL Director General Dominic Jermey said: “The closure of London and Whipsnade Zoos put us under immense financial pressure; we’re fighting our biggest challenge in our 200-year history.

"Unlike any other UK zoo, our zoos, are the lifeline for a world-renowned scientific institute and global conservation work – work that has never been more vital.

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"As well as educating and inspiring millions of people to make a difference for wildlife at our two zoos, we’re at the forefront of research investigating emerging wildlife diseases, including coronaviruses, and we’re creating impactful solutions for humans and wildlife to peacefully co-exist – but we need help.

"Our zoos may have been able to reopen their gates, but with strict social distance measures and heavily-restricted visitor numbers we have no way of recouping what was lost – we’re not out of the woods yet.”

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