London Zoo appeals for funds as dedicated staff sleep in to feed animals

PUBLISHED: 13:30 24 March 2020 | UPDATED: 13:25 29 March 2020

Zookeeper Martin Franklin cleans the penguin beach at London Zoo

Zookeeper Martin Franklin cleans the penguin beach at London Zoo

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The Regent’s Park zoo has launched a public appeal to help feed their 18,000 animals after closing their doors for the first time since World War Two.

Zookeeper Ben Isherwood chops veg for the giraffes and hippos at London ZooZookeeper Ben Isherwood chops veg for the giraffes and hippos at London Zoo

London Zoo has launched a public appeal to help feed their 18,000 animals after closing their doors for the first time since World War Two.

The charity, which runs the Regent’s Park attraction, relies on donations and visitor ticket sales to fund its operation costs.

And staff are sleeping on site, wearing face masks, and practicing social distancing to protect the animals and each other from the virus.

ZSL London Zoo’s Chief Operation Officer Kathryn England said: “Following government guidance, London Zoo made the sad decision to close its doors on March 21.

Behind the scenes at London Zoo where keepers stay on site to look after the animalsBehind the scenes at London Zoo where keepers stay on site to look after the animals

“Along with the rest of the country, we watched as this unprecedented situation unfolded and immediately began making detailed plans in anticipation of having to take this previously unthinkable action.

“As heartbreaking as it was, we believe it was the right and responsible decision to protect our staff, visitors and animals - and to support our NHS at this difficult time.”

The Zoo’s car park on the Outer Circle is now reserved for NHS staff at the nearby UCLH and Portland Hospitals and all perishable food from the Zoo’s cafes was boxed up into packages for local essential workers.

During the lockdown, a dedicated team of zookeepers, vets, security and grounds staff will remain working to make every day “completely normal” for the inhabitants, many of whom are endangered species or part of global breeding programmes.

Zookeeper Martin Franklin cleans the penguin beach at London ZooZookeeper Martin Franklin cleans the penguin beach at London Zoo

Those who struggle to get in are bedding down in the Lion Lodges where overnight visitors usually stay.

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“In the face of true adversity they have been taking time to think up fun and creative new activities to keep the animals stimulated and where safely possible, taking animals like the llamas and Bactrian camels on walks around the Zoo.

“Staff have also been taking it in turns to visit the pygmy goats at our children’s zoo, Animal Adventure, to give them some extra attention: they’ve been waiting patiently for visitors who never turn up so, they’re definitely missing everyone.”

Meanwhile local residents have showed their support by waving to keepers from Regent’s Park and the Outer Circle.

“Our giraffes Maggie and Molly have been closely watching everyone who has stopped at the gates to see them!”

“The health and safety of our animals and staff is our top priority. Many have been car sharing and cycling to work to reduce movement across the city, and our Lion Lodges, have been repurposed into on site temporary accommodation for essential zookeepers who may otherwise struggle to get in.”

Asked if any of the animals are at risk of contracting the virus, she added: “We have strict measures in place to reduce any potential risk to our animals: zookeepers who work closely with our animals are wearing facemasks and gloves while preparing their food or entering their enclosures - this is in line with BIAZA’s (British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums) current guidance.”

The Zoo opened to scientists in 1828 and to the public in 1847. It closed only briefly during WWII upon instruction from the government, before being re-opened to boost the morale of Londoners.

Urging supporters to keep an eye on social media channels to stay up to date with the daily lives of animals and staff, Ms England added: “For almost two hundred years ZSL London Zoo has dedicated itself to protecting and preserving wildlife and connecting people with wildlife: this is a challenging time for the whole country and we have no plans to break that connection.

“We rely on public support to continue our work including the costs of caring for and feeding our 18,000 residents. We’ve always been proud to be a big part of the community and have been deeply touched by the compassion and solidarity shown by our visitors, members and local residents, who have sent countless messages of support.

“We know everyone is getting used to the country’s new reality and we can’t wait to welcome everyone back to the Zoo in safer times, but in the meantime you can help us weather the storm by making a donation via our dedicated fundraising website. We welcome your support, however it comes.”

Click here to donate.


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