Zoos to close over rising Covid rates just days after reopening

Feeding time for the giraffes inside the newly extended plains of Africa enclosure at Africa Alive.

Feeding time for the giraffes inside the newly extended plains of Africa enclosure at Africa Alive. Picture: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

Two zoos in Norfolk and Suffolk have confirmed they are to close from New Year’s Eve - just four days after reopening.

The Zoological Society of East Anglia, the charity which runs Africa Alive in Suffolk and Banham Zoo in Norfolk, said it had decided to close both from the end of the day on December 31 in order to keep people safe.

Banham Zoo, near Diss. Pic: Banham Zoo

Banham Zoo, near Diss. Pic: Banham Zoo - Credit: Archant

Both zoos had re-opened on Sunday after the government published an amendment that permitted outdoor attractions, including zoos to remain open in Tier 4 areas.

Claudia Roberts, joint managing director, said: “It has been a very difficult decision to make. Despite zoos and other outdoor attractions being allowed to remain open, the Government guidelines for Tier 4 state to ‘stay at home’ and ‘act responsibly to control the virus’.

Claudia Roberts, managing director of the Commercial, Zoological Society of East Anglia Picture: Su

Claudia Roberts, Zoological Society of East Anglia joint managing director. - Credit: Archant

“The numbers of Covid-19 infections have been rising daily and with the concern about the spread of the new variant I believe it is necessary, even though a national lockdown has not been announced, to close both zoos until further notice to help control the pandemic.

“We will review this over the coming weeks and will update all our supporters as soon as we believe it is safe to reverse our decision.”


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Africa Alive in Kessingland, near Lowestoft, and Banham Zoo, in Banham, near Diss, had both welcomed back visitors, though all animal houses and restaurants had remained shut and visitor numbers were limited. 

The newest edition to the park is the baby Golden-Bellied Mangabey. Picture: MEGAN GOODWIN

The newest edition to the park is the baby Golden-Bellied Mangabey. Picture: MEGAN GOODWIN - Credit: Archant

The decision to reopen had provoked a mixed reaction with some people on social media expressing bemusement. One person posted: "So you can't see family in Tier 4 but you can go to the zoo?”

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However others had welcomed the openings and Banham Zoo had said it was fully booked until January 4.

Ms Roberts said: “We are of course very disappointed to make this decision and will be offering anyone who has pre-booked tickets the opportunity to come at any point once we reopen up until June 30, 2021.”  

Penguins will have a new look home at Banham Zoo

Banham Zoo and Africa Alive need a minimum of £25,000 per week to care for the animals. - Credit: Archant

Anyone who has purchased tickets for New Year’s Eve is asked to “make their own judgement” whether to visit. 
The closures again put financial pressure on the zoos which will not be receiving any income for the foreseeable future but which need a minimum of £25,000 per week to care for the animals.

The charity has asked for donations to its #WildAboutSurvival appeal. To donate visit justgiving.com/campaign/zsea

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