ZSL Director General: ‘London Zoo needs you’

Meerkats enjoy Easter at London Zoo

Meerkats enjoy Easter at London Zoo - Credit: Archant

After closing their doors on March 21 the Regent’s Park landmark is appealing for donations to keep its 18,000 residents fed and cared for

Several weeks ago, alongside my family, colleagues, and the rest of the country, I watched as the coronavirus pandemic tightened its grip on the world.

We immediately began making detailed plans, in anticipation of having to make a previously unthinkable decision: to close ZSL London Zoo to the public.

Within days the unimaginable became reality, but as heartbreaking as it was to finally press the button on March 21, we knew that shutting our gates was the responsible thing to do to protect our staff, visitors and animals - and to support our NHS at this difficult time.

Behind our closed gates, life goes on. ZSL vets have performed routine health checks on Oni the pregnant okapi, Thug the pygmy hippo has continued to receive his daily dental care and when possible, Noemie and Ghengis, the Bactrian camels, have been taken on their regular walks around the Zoo.

A dedicated team of ZSL staff have kept calm and carried on: chopping food, mucking out dens, checking hooves, and thinking up new and creative activities to keep life for our animals as normal as possible - without our visitors.

The lockdown has undeniably presented new and difficult challenges for our charitable mission, but I’ve been nothing but proud of how our staff have faced this unprecedented situation. Zookeepers who can safely travel in on foot, bike or car have done so; others have slept on site, with our ZSL London Zoo Lodges repurposed as staff accommodation, to limit travel across the city.

Most Read

I’ve been deeply heartened by the devotion of our teams. Everyone at ZSL has remained singularly focused on one thing: the care of our animals. Trust us – they’ve got this. But we need your help to support them.

London Zoo has been part of British life for nearly two centuries. As a child, HRH The Queen met her first penguin at London Zoo. Sir David Attenborough started his television career working with London Zoo. Generations of families have visited with their parents, before growing up and bringing their own little ones to learn about the world’s wildlife.

We’ve brought animals back from extinction, trained eminent vets, zookeepers, conservationists and scientists and educated and inspired millions of schoolchildren, bringing countless people face-to-face with the natural world.

We opened the world’s first Reptile House in 1849, were proud to appoint the world’s first female reptile and amphibian curator in 1923, and have survived two world wars. We closed for just two weeks at the start of World War Two, before being asked by the UK government to reopen to boost public morale – something we’re eager to do again once it’s safe to do so.

On March 24, we launched a new fundraising campaign, because our zoos need your help. ZSL is a charity, and we rely on donations and ticket sales to carry out our work for wildlife, including the costs of feeding and caring for our 18,000 residents, many of which are endangered species.

We’ve always been proud to be a big part of the community in London and have been deeply touched by the compassion and solidarity already shown to us by our visitors, members and neighbours.

These are unprecedented times - for the society we live in, for ZSL and for each of us. Please support us with a donation if you’re able. And be ready to celebrate with us when we open our doors again. zsl.org/support-our-zoos