Thank you for contacting me about zoos, wildlife parks and aquariums.
I understand the unique set of circumstances which these places have faced throughout the coronavirus pandemic. I have read some amazing stories in recent weeks of keepers moving into zoos and I can only thank them for their fantastic commitment to the welfare of the creatures in their care.
I am pleased that the Prime Minister has now announced that outdoor facilities at zoos and safari parks will be allowed to reopen from the 15 June. Aquariums, where these are indoors, and other indoor attractions at zoos and safari parks will have to remain closed. This is because there is a greater risk of coronavirus transmission indoors.
I am delighted that Ministers launched a £14 million support fund to support zoos and aquariums during these unprecedented times. This funding will continue to help attractions cover costs relating to animal keeping such as feed, heating and security, and is on top of a number of support schemes already available, including business rates relief, the business interruption loan scheme and the job retention scheme.
The Government is continuing to engage regularly with some of the major zoos and aquariums to identify the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on larger organisations. This includes monitoring concerns around potential implications for animal welfare. I am aware that consideration of proposals for any longer-term support that might be needed for the sector is ongoing.
I would like to reassure you that Ministers understand the challenges faced by zoos and aquariums during these unprecedented times. I am pleased that they have been engaging with the main industry association, the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA). They are also taking expert advice from Defra’s Zoos Expert Committee.
Furthermore, I am now working with colleagues in Parliament to push for the Government to allow Aquariums in particular to now open up to the public again, observing social distancing guidance at all times. We are very fortunate in Hastings to have the Sealife Centre on Rock-a-nore, and I am keen we can see this open to the public as soon as possible. I will continue to push for this as the local MP.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Sally-Ann Hart MP