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When did zoos close?

On the 26 March the UK went into lockdown and all the zoos in the UK had to shut, not knowing when they’d be able to open again. A number of zoos really boosted their online presence with virtual tours or some great webcams but that is never going to make up for seeing a lion face to face.

Whilst it might have been tough for zoo nerds, it was even tougher for the zoos themselves. It feels like the best bit of weather this year is going to have was during lockdown. I can imagine that most zoo CFOs must be looking at the lost revenue and wondering what on earth they can do to make it back. The help we gave the zoos will go a little way towards it but I don’t think it will ever close the hole left by millions of people staying home.

When will zoos reopen?

Zoos are probably one of the safer types of attraction to start opening first as, along with gardens, they are largely outdoors and you don’t have to actually touch anything. The good news for us is that from the 15th June outdoor Zoos have been allowed to open. As lockdown has eased further it was announced that from the 4th of July that was extended out to indoor zoos and aquariums.

Now, just because the government says a zoo is allowed to open doesn’t mean the zoo has to open. I mean, as adults we’re allowed to eat as much ice cream as we want but most of us would stop this side of a tub of Ben & Jerry’s (unless things were really bad). This logic applies to the zoo world too. Most of the big zoos have been particularly badly hit and things are really bad so they’ve opened as soon as possible. Some of the smaller zoos are taking a little longer to make sure they are comfortable that everything is as safe as possible for guests so are still yet to open.

In summary:

  • Outdoor zoos can open from the 15th June
  • Indoor zoos & aquariums can open from the 4th July

What restrictions will zoos have in place?

Most zoos should be able to open fairly normally however there will be a few noticable changes…

Most zoos will be introducing a one way system. This helps keep you safe but it may mean that the zoo doesn’t look as good as there are ugly, temporary barriers blocking some viewpoints or screening off some play equipment. There is a silver lining though which is that a one way system has will ensure you don’t miss any animals!

A lot of zoos have play areas for small children and toddlers. As you’d expect, these would be a coronavirus hotspot so all zoos won’t be opening up the play equipment any time soon.

Picnic areas might be fenced off. This varies by zoo but I know a large number aren’t fencing off a lot of the seating areas as they can’t make them socially distanced. I’d expect this to change over the next few months as being able to buy food in zoo and eat it sat down is a big source of zoo revenue.

Zoo restaurants will probably only do takeaway. This won’t be too much of an issue as most of the zoo food is fast, convenient food anyway but it might mean you end up sitting on some grass or a bench to eat.

Which zoos are open?

I thought it would be useful for people looking to see which specific zoos are open if I just dropped in a list of the top 20 largest zoos and whether or not they are open. I’ve also included Askham Bryan on there as they are my local zoo and deserve as much publicity as I can shove their way.

  • Africa Alive is open
  • Askham Bryan wildlife park is open
  • Blackpool Zoo is open
  • Blair Drummond Safari and Adventure Park is open
  • Bristol Zoo Gardens is open
  • Chessington World of Adventures is open
  • Chester Zoo is open
  • Colchester Zoo is open
  • Cotswold wildlife park is open
  • Drayton Manor Zoo is open
  • Edinburgh Zoo is open
  • Flamingo Land is open
  • Knowsley Safari is open
  • London Zoo is open
  • Longleat is open
  • Marwell Zoo is open
  • Monkey World is closed to the public and open to adoptive parents only
  • Paignton Zoo is open
  • Twycross Zoo is open
  • Whipsnade Zoo is open
  • Woburn Safari Park is open
  • Yorkshire Wildlife Park is open

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