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Are there any UK collections we should be particularly concerned about? (Covid-19)

Discussion in 'United Kingdom' started by Benosaurus, 22 Mar 2020.

  1. Benosaurus

    Benosaurus Well-Known Member

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    Now that nearly all UK zoos/wildlife parks etc. have closed their doors to visitors for at least the next few months, are there any places that may struggle more than others and are therefore more likely to close for good?

    I think it is presumed by many that the largest, most visited UK zoos will be perfectly fine as they will have significant funds in reserve to see them through. Is this the reality for all of them though? And surely it is the largest zoos, despite usually attracting the most visitors, that will have the biggest outgoings: imagine a huge lake with a waterline that is normally maintained by a large waterfall flowing in from above and a large river flowing rapidly out from below; well for the next few months it is only the river below that exists.

    So therefore, as everywhere now has zero income from visitors, does this mean that small or medium sized zoos are in a safer position than the largest zoos due to having lower expenditure (zero coming in, but less going out)? I suppose that question is too general to answer as every zoo is different and funds, outgoings and margins vary even between zoos of the same size.

    However, some zoos, mostly the larger, more established, business savvy ones do have ways of producing regular income other than receiving visitors, such as an online shop. I imagine it is the larger, more popular zoos that are also the ones that get the most donations (large and small) off the general public despite them supposedly already being richer.

    Will council-owned zoos be OK? I guess it depends on the zoo and the council, but I believe that most councils in the UK are cash-strapped as it is and I imagine they won't be able to provide much financial support. I get the impression councils already rely on their zoo being self-sustaining.

    Personally I think it is the tiny, privately owned places who are most in danger, where things are run on a shoestring as it is. I think survival may depend on a zoo's ability to rebound and attract lots of visitors back very quickly once doors are reopened, something which the smallest zoos/parks may struggle to do. Pleas from these places to the public in the local area may be needed and bigger, more popular zoos who are not in danger may need to say to their visitors, "Hey thanks for thinking of us, but please help support the little guy down the road who really needs your help".

    So to conclude, my bottom line question is... which of any of the collections in the UK are most in danger and hence, as soon as all of this blows over, which places should we as Zoochatters make it our priority to visit (and encourage other people to visit) in order to help ensure their survival?
     
    Last edited: 22 Mar 2020
  2. Panthera1981

    Panthera1981 Well-Known Member

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    Linton for me, every time.
     
  3. CGSwans

    CGSwans Well-Known Member

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    Given that most large UK zoos are charitable trusts I wouldn’t claim that any of them are truly safe.

    It all boils down to how much overhead they can slash and how much they have in liquid assets. This is a black swan event and the UK zoo culture where they are mostly run as charities with relatively low, if any public sector support *will* cause closures. Counter-intuitively, it might actually be the smaller places run as small businesses that might be better equipped to survive. If a zoo has a small collection primarily made up of smaller animals like lemurs, meerkats, parrots etc, they might be able to survive on a skeleton staff made up of the owners and a couple of volunteers.

    Places like Chester with lots of elephants and big cats to feed are going to have lots of expenses that can’t be cut. Keeper rounds will be cut, with each keeper to need to work with more animals. Enrichment activities might have to be scaled back. Staff in any front of house operations - retail, ticketing, concessions - will need to be furloughed for zoos to survive.

    Movement of animals between collections will effectively cease, so managed programs might have to reduce the amount of breeding they do or rely on less genetically preferred pairings. Things like AI breeding efforts will stop. Education will depend on the zoo and the extent to which it can be done online and without expenditure. Research activities will also cease if they require any expenditure. Zoos’ contributions to in-situ programs will likely also have to be paused.
     
  4. CGSwans

    CGSwans Well-Known Member

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    Also, I wouldn’t want to be running a public aquarium right now. Aquatic life support systems are *expensive*.
     
  5. J C

    J C Well-Known Member

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    I don’t think any body is safe, the bigger you are the harder you fall ring a bell all the zoos will run on a percentage of intake as profit say 20% relative to there size they will all have wages, feed, heating, mateanace to pay with no income, donations will be minimal given people will have to look after them selves for a large part. Think him much Chester would cost to run with out its two million a year guest at £30 each just in the heating for tropical areas where as places like Twycross has a snake and a few turtles ( I know it’s a bit more than this ). I would think the most a risk could be those with two sites London, Edinburgh, Bristol as a business they could close and possibly sell one site to halve costs and what if they find the virus can be carried by animals we could find a two year ban on movement like the TB placed on all zoo in the comeing months which could cripple larger zoos with there high turnover of babies such as Chester
     
  6. Bubalus

    Bubalus Well-Known Member

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    I don't think we will have to worry about animals getting this particular strain of corona and a ban such as with TB. Many animals cary a strain of coronavirus anyways but this particular form being the covid-19 form cannot pass as a zoonotic. Yes risk management has been put into place at some collections but that is poorly standard operational procedures but in terms of the transportation and movement of animals being shut down such as with TB, I would see this as very unlikely
     
  7. zooboy

    zooboy Well-Known Member

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    The impact of coronavirus on zoos is a good topic to discuss on this site but I don't consider it is either desirable or helpful to name collections that individual chatters speculate could be most severely impacted by the crisis. Few of us have the detailed knowledge of the financial status and operation of even one or two collections and most of us have none.

    Charitable zoos will have some money held in reserve for emergencies, and many non-charity zoos would plan to be in the same position, but that is a finite sum that would only last so long. Few, if any, zoos would have generated income greater than expenditure since last October - as is the normal scenario in the U.K. where weather plays such a significant role in zoo attendance - and most places suffered from bad weather throughout the recent school half-term, so they were all counting on a good Easter to reverse the trend. Of course that will not happen so cash-flow will be a major concern. There is one revenue stream that can continue and that is annual membership subscriptions so we can all help by continuing, and perhaps taking out new, subscriptions to show support even if facilities to members will be very limited this year.

    The cessation of air travel will impact all international conservation and animal breeding programmes for at least a year, and for many practical reasons inter-UK-zoo transfers will almost certainly be put on hold unless really critical. BIAZA members zoos will have a central body to co-ordinate and guide them, and probably non-member zoos too, through the coming months. Should any collections get to the stage that they consider they have no option but to close permanently then there are some major considerations not least disposal of animals. Let's hope it does not get to that stage.
     
  8. Dassie rat

    Dassie rat Well-Known Member

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    I wonder if this is a time when some zoos should be co-operating more with others, rather than perhaps competing with them. Zoos could look at their collections and decide which species are not being kept in ideal conditions and, rather than building a new, expensive exhibit, accept that a competitor zoo could better house individuals of a species. Many zoos will lose a lot of money this year and are more likely to close exhibits, rather than build new ones. Perhaps zoos could help each other by offering discounts to other zoos that have certain species.
     
  9. Bubalus

    Bubalus Well-Known Member

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    I can assure this is what goes on with zoos as it is. We are in no form competing with each other on any level and often go out of species that go to other zoos anyways, especially when helping the gene pool and for conservational breeding efforts anyways. I'm not sure what you mean by offering a discount to other zoos?
     
  10. Dassie rat

    Dassie rat Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Bubalus
    While many zoos have reduced their collections, they still invest a lot of money in some species of animals that visitors expect to see. Rather than trying to keep the same species in many zoos, they could agree to keep some species, but not others. If visitors wanted to see a species that was no longer kept in a zoo, there could be leaflets offering a discount to zoos containing this species. This would also encourage people to visit other zoos and see a greater variety of species.
     
  11. Mr. Zootycoon

    Mr. Zootycoon Well-Known Member

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    It is very difficult to see at this stage which zoos are more at risk. There are so many variables at play. Does the zoo have a wealthy owner that wants to keep it afloat? Does it have enough goodwill with the local government or population to help? How much can the zoo save by stripping down to the bare essential animal and plant husbandry? Are there problems getting feed or do they produce part of it themselves? Are there animals whose husbandry is particularly expensive? And it is possible and/or desirable to sacrifice those to save the rest? What is the nature of the zoo, e.g. size, number of animals, location etc.

    And these factors also influence each other. A major zoo with a wealthy owner and government back-up may have few problems maintaining their elephants, manatees and pandas. For a small zoo that needs every penny, a pair of hornbills or caimain lizards (relatively expensive eaters) can already be a major financial burden.

    To say that zoos are in no form competing with each other is rather naïve. I do hope that in general cooperation is stronger than competition (because zoos rely on each other to get animals), but there's undoubtly some competition. Things are certainly different between nations however, so what you say may very well be true in the UK (I don't know), but it cannot be simply extrapolated to mainland Europe, let alone beyond that.
     
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  12. Bubalus

    Bubalus Well-Known Member

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    Interesting idea but one I'm not sure would work. We as zoos continue to keep certain animals of a non conservational point of view as it brings in the visitors. Meerkats, Chapman's Zebra for example. Most people will come to their local zoo to see these animals. The ABS's if you will. Most average zoo visitors in my opinion are not overly bothered by the majority of species that are mostly unknown to people. They come to see the elephants, giraffes, lions, tigers, monkeys and meerkats. And not discounting the bird fans, penguins and flamingos. I have worked in zoos before that do not have elephants, and because we did not have them, we were told we aren't really a zoo.

    By also reducing the number of the same species across several zoos, again we are making it hard on ourselves to be placing animals of breeding age with other animals, thus decreasing our gene pool size and lowering the chance for fresh bloodlines across the species.

    Again on the travelling front, most families from my experience will more than likely not travel great distances just for a specific species. If I told a member of public that I went all the way to the Bronx Zoo just to see a Coquerel's Sifaka, they would probably look at me like I am an alien!
     
  13. SHAVINGTONZOO

    SHAVINGTONZOO Well-Known Member

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    I don't think any UK zoo receives direct "government back-up". And very few "wealthy owners" - and if there are any they're probably a lot less wealthy today than they were a few weeks ago ...
     
  14. Dassie rat

    Dassie rat Well-Known Member

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    Hello Bubalus
    I think many of your comments were true a few decades ago when many zoos had larger collections and many visitors were content to see single animals in cramped, rather bare enclosures. I remember a visitor complaining that London Zoo wasn't really a zoo as it didn't have rare animals like elephants. I have told several visitors that the elephants are better off at Whipsnade where they are breeding.
    There are many books and TV programmes that show obscure species in a way to interest people. I think you underestimate visitors in assuming that they are only interested in ABC animals. Education departments could do more to provide a range of audio-visual material to show why a certain animal is interesting - a little notice with a common and Latin name and a small map won't interest people who hadn't heard of the animal before.
    I think many of your comments were true a few decades ago when many zoos had larger collections and many visitors were content to see single animals in cramped, rather bare enclosures.
    Times have moved on and there are many books and TV programmes that show obscure species in a way to interest people.
     
  15. Dassie rat

    Dassie rat Well-Known Member

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    The government last paid money to London Zoo in the 1980s.
     
  16. Bubalus

    Bubalus Well-Known Member

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    I've worked as a zoo keeper for 17 years now and as much as I wish what you said were true, the fact is that a good probably 80% to 90% of zoo visitors are simply not bothered by the obscure. Our education department works flawlessly to install interest and knowledge in those not so known species but the usual question is where are the monkeys etc.
    We have a species currently that is only housed in our collection in the entirety of the UK, and yet you tell the public this fact and the good majority show no interest in this.
    Just watching public around the zoo, the large groups of people will linger at the ABC's whereas a lot of lesser known species barely attract many, and that is speaking from all of the collections I've worked at.
    We can educate and provide as much resources as humanly possible into boosting the excitement of the more unknown but it really is a hugely uphill battle for us.
    Even within the keeper talks I provide which do cover lesser known species, the interest just doesn't cover everyone but as soon as you bring up any ABC, interest peaks as that is what most have come to see.
    Thankfully the good people on this site show the interest in a lot of species others do not, and as the saying goes between UK zookeepers...You can always spot a zoo chatter ;)
     
  17. gentle lemur

    gentle lemur Well-Known Member

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  18. littleRedPanda

    littleRedPanda Well-Known Member

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    As pointed out in another thread, a few of the smaller zoos are appealing on facebook for donations. Hemsley even featured on local BBC news this morning, stressing that the lack of supermarket throwaway goods is having an impact on them.
     
  19. Crowthorne

    Crowthorne Moderator Staff Member

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    Shaldon and Wingham/Sandwich are also asking for funds. Wingham are stating frequently just how much it costs to run the zoo for a week
     
  20. migdog

    migdog Well-Known Member

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    So are Paradise, Colchester and many others. If feel nearly all will need donations to help them survive.