London Zoo “faces extinction” warns David Attenborough

David Attenborough and Bulu the orangutan at ZSL

David Attenborough and Bulu the orangutan at ZSL - Credit: Archant

The veteran wildlife presenter is fronting a TV fundraising appeal to help save the conservation charity behind the Regent’s Park attraction

Sir David Attenborough is fronting a TV appeal to save the conservation charity behind London Zoo “from extinction”.

The 94-year-old, who is an honorary fellow of ZSL, said its work is “vital in driving forward a vision of a world where wildlife thrives”.

He added: “But ZSL now faces its toughest challenge to date – the national institution is now itself, at risk of extinction.”

He is lending his voice to an appeal to raise funds for the charity, which was forced to close both Whipsnade and London Zoo for three months during the coronovirus pandemic. He paints a stark picture of the jeopardy faced by the iconic institution which relies on ticket sales to stay afloat.

David Attenborough opens the Komodo Dragon house at London Zoo 2004

David Attenborough opens the Komodo Dragon house at London Zoo 2004 - Credit: Archant

In addition to running the two zoos, ZSL funds global wildlife health research at its Institute of Zoology and supports active conservation projects in more than 50 countries.

Attenborough’s connection to the Regent’s Park attraction goes back to the 1950s when he made his The Pattern of Animals and Zoo Quest documentaries about ZSL’s work - which established him as a natural history presenter. He has gone on to open attractions and launch several conservation initiatives at London Zoo.

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ZSL Director General Dominic Jermey said: “The closure of London and Whipsnade Zoos put us under immense financial pressure. Our zoos may have been able to reopen their gates, but with strict social distancing measures and heavily restricted visitor numbers we have no way of recouping what was lost; we’re fighting our biggest challenge in our 200-year history.”

The Zoological Society of London, which was founded as the world’s first scientific zoo in 1826, “is in a perilous position”.

“With the Society’s core income stream cut, but no compromises made on animal care, the lockdown put immense pressure on the charity’s reserves.

“Unlike any other UK zoo, our zoos are the lifeline for ground-breaking research and fund our global conservation projects. As well as educating and inspiring millions of people to make a difference for wildlife, we’re at the forefront of research to understand how diseases such as coronaviruses transfer from wildlife to humans, and we’re using our expertise to help find new ways for humans and wildlife to peacefully co-exist. The world cannot afford for our work to be stopped.”

The appeal airs for the first time tonight (July 9) across Sky channels.

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