One of the UK’s largest zoos is “at risk of extinction” after losing millions of pounds as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Chester Zoo bosses say they are fighting for its future as the conservation charity could end 2020 more than £24 million in debt.
Managers say the Cheshire site is “Covid secure” and they would be able to limit numbers and enforce social distancing in a way public beaches, parks and beauty spots cannot, but the Government has not given zoos the green light to reopen.
Jamie Christon, the zoo’s chief operating officer said: “As the UK’s biggest and most popular charity zoo, we’ve tried to stay positive during this pandemic.
“Our conservationists have continued to prevent extinction, our virtual days have cheered up the nation, and our learning resources have helped out thousands of homeschooling families. We wanted to remain a beacon of hope.
“But now, the Government has ordered us to stay closed indefinitely and Chester Zoo is very much fighting for its future.
“This change in law has flicked a switch for us and, heartbreakingly, our lights are now flickering.
“Not being able to open, despite being a huge outdoor site with all the necessary safety measures in place, is having a devastating impact on the future survival of this much-loved charity zoo.
“We’re heading towards debt in excess of £24 million by the end of 2020 – this will financially cripple us.”