Twycross Zoo reaches 57 year birthday with an uncertain future ahead
Today (26th May) marks 57 years since Twycross Zoo opened its gates to the public in 1963. Since its first day the midlands zoo has welcomed over 30 million visitors and has played an important role in the conservation, education and research needed to protect many of the most endangered species on the planet.
Starting from humble beginnings, founders of Twycross Zoo, business partners Molly Badham OBE and Nathalie Evans had a love of primates and created Twycross Zoo after outgrowing their small site in Hints, Staffordshire and moving to Twycross to open the zoo in 1963. Since then the zoo has evolved into a world-renowned conservation charity zoo, winning countless awards for animal welfare, education and business.
Just only 6 months ago the zoo had enjoyed its best year ever in 2019 with record-breaking high visitor numbers and announced its 2030 Vision which included developing a national centre for science and conservation in the heart of the midlands at Twycross Zoo.
However, while Twycross Zoo has blossomed in its 57 years, 6 months now feels like a long time ago. The zoo hoped to be celebrating its birthday in style this year, however since Twycross Zoo sadly closed its gates in March due to the Covid-19 crisis, there will be no visitors to help celebrate. Instead the zoo finds itself in an unforeseen position of fighting to protect its future, with costs continuing to mount and income having all but dried up when the gates closed.
Dr Sharon Redrobe OBE, CEO of Twycross Zoo commented: “This milestone is bittersweet for us. It’s an incredible achievement to be open for 57 years, however without our visitors it’s not as happy as it should be. We’re experiencing a very uncertain time, and we’ve never been closed this long in our history.”
While government initiatives like the furlough scheme and business interruption loans will help to some extent zoo’s across the UK are in a difficult position in that many costs and operation have had to continue even without visitors as they have animals to care for. Twycross Zoo refuses to compromise on the standard of care they provide to their animals and is striving to continue the vital conservation work they do. While the government had set up a fund to help some small zoos, Twycross Zoo is not eligible, so different support is desperately needed from the government to protect the future of the zoo and its animals. Over its 57 years Twycross Zoo has like many organisations had its ups and downs though this birthday marks perhaps the most difficult time in its history, a very difficult time for the 100-acre zoo, home to 500 animals of 125 species.
Dr Sharon Redrobe OBE, CEO of Twycross Zoo continues: “In order to keep operating the zoo has been relying on its reserves (which run out in June) as well as donations from its many supporters. It is vital that this work continues in support of the UK’s commitment to global biodiversity. It still costs us over half a million pounds a month to run the zoo even whilst we’re closed, and there are no grants from the government for large zoos like us undertaking critical conservation work and caring for such large groups of endangered species. Every day we are shut is getting us more into debt.
“We are hopeful as a 100-acre outdoor site with plenty of space that we will be able to reopen to visitors in the not too distant future. Whilst we’ve been shut we have worked to ensure our staff have a safe environment and we have been working on measures to observe social distancing and hygiene guidelines on site for our visitors. We are working on many changes to how we operate to ensure that when we do open we will be ‘Covid-19 secure’ in line with all Government guidelines, and we will share details of this soon. Opening again will provide a Covid-19 secure environment for families to relax and enjoy nature as well as some much-needed income and a sigh of relief for the future of our Zoo.”
Twycross Zoo are calling on their supporters and visitors of the past and future to generously make a donation. Any amount big or small will help in the mission to protect the future of the award-winning zoo for generations to come. If you want to donate please visit www.twycrosszoo.org/donate/ .