Coronavirus: Chester Zoo warns pandemic 'left massive scar'

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Girl looking out of car window at a lionessImage source, Knowsley Safari
Image caption,
Knowsley Safari, managing Director Edward Perry, said it is "very good news" but "should have been sooner"

Chester Zoo officials say they are "ecstatic" they can reopen but warned the pandemic had left a "massive scar" on the zoo's finances.

Boris Johnson has announced that zoos, safari parks and drive-in cinemas can reopen in England from Monday.

The zoo's chief operating officer Jamie Christon said it had a "long way to go" to get where it was before the crisis.

Knowsley Safari managing director Edward Perry said it was "very good news" but "should have been sooner".

Chester Zoo, which covers a 128-acre site, is one of the largest zoos in the country and is home to more than 35,000 animals from more than 500 of the world's rarest species.

Two million people visited the attraction in 2019, which gets 97% of its income from visitors and costs £1.5m a month to run, Mr Christon said.

Image source, Chester Zoo
Image caption,
Chester Zoo is home to over 35,000 animals, from more than 500 of the world's rarest species

He added: "We are already £5m down so far this year and even when we open on Monday we will be opening on controlled capacity of around 3,000 people a day - a fifth of our normal capacity.

"It's going to take us a long, long, time to recover."

Knowsley Safari Park's Mr Perry said the visitor attraction had been ready for the past week to safely open to the public and did not understand "why it's been OK for people to jump in their cars to go and get Big Macs, but not to come and see our big cats".

He said every day "really does count" when it came to generating "much-needed revenue to care for over 700 animals".

'Really welcome news'

MPs and councillors in Cheshire, who had campaigned for zoo reopening by highlighting their "vitally important" work for global conservation said they were "delighted" at the announcement.

Warrington South MP Andy Carter said: "This is really welcome news, it's great for visitors, employees and most importantly the animals at Chester Zoo."

Saughall and Mollington Conservative councillor Simon Eardley said: "Everyone locally knows how important the zoo is on so many levels but its reach goes way beyond being just the jewel in the crown of the North West. Their work is so vitally important for conservation in many parts of the world."

The Martin Mere Wetland Centre in Ormskirk reopened earlier and is limiting the number of people who can visit on any one day through a booking system.

Blackpool Zoo has not issued any information on when it plans to reopen.

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