More than 30 jobs are at risk as Bristol Zoological Society struggles to survive what has been labelled the most difficult time in its 185-year history.
The charity that runs Bristol Zoo in Clifton and Wild Place Project near Cribbs Causeway is due to make a multi-million-pound loss as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which meant a prolonged closure for both attractions in March.
Although both sites are now reopened, visitor numbers are reduced for the foreseeable future to enable social distancing, with a continued detrimental impact on finances.
With no recourse to the government’s Zoo Animals Fund, which is only available for zoos with less than 12 weeks funding remaining, the society says it is now launching redundancy procedures as “a last resort”. A total of 35 roles are at risk.
Dr Justin Morris, the CEO of Bristol Zoological Society, said: “There is little doubt that this year has been by far the most challenging year that the society has ever faced in its 185-year history.
“Like many in the tourism sector, we rely on the spring and summer months to generate much-needed income to support our work for the entire year. Despite reopening our two attractions in the summer after prolonged closures, we limited our visitor capacity on site to maintain social distancing and to ensure the safety of our visitors, staff and volunteers.
“This meant we have been unable to make up the huge shortfall in income lost due to the Covid-19 pandemic and we are currently facing a multi-million-pound loss for 2020. With limits on visitor numbers likely to be in place during 2021 also, we will continue to feel the impact of coronavirus for the foreseeable future.
“Our fixed costs are high. The expense of caring for our animals is considerable. We continue to run our conservation breeding programmes as well as our conservation field projects across four continents. This work is now more important than ever before in a world where humans and wildlife are increasingly struggling to co-exist.
“We made use of the government’s furlough scheme; however this is now ending and we were not able to benefit from the government’s Zoo Support Fund due to the financial reserves that we had in place as a registered charity.”
Morris said the society has been “genuinely humbled” by the messages of support and donations to the zoo’s fundraising appeal but says that, whilst generous and valued, it is not enough to sustain the two sites.
He added: “We are now facing even more uncertainty and pressure, at a time when we, like others, are having to operate under very challenging circumstances. Redundancies have always been a last resort, but sadly it has now become inevitable, and we would like to pay tribute to our excellent and committed colleagues.
“I would like to thank all who have supported Bristol Zoological Society throughout this difficult period and continue to do so. This support is more important than ever before to help safeguard the future of Bristol Zoological Society, and our internationally important conservation work.”
Find out more about Bristol Zoological Society’s fundraising appeal via www.bristolzoo.org.uk/save-wildlife/bristol-zoological-society-appeal.
Main photo courtesy of Bristol Zoo