Defra issues Guidance on Government funding for Zoos and Aquariums impacted by COVID-19

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has issued the following guidance on government funding for zoos and aquariums impacted by COVID-19:

1. Background

This guidance provides information on financial support to zoos and aquariums in the United Kingdom, who have been impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic and sets out the actions that zoos and aquariums can take to cope with the impacts of COVID-19.

The Government recognise that this sector faces unique circumstances and are committed to working with the industry to understand the impacts. We have been engaging closely with the main industry association, the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA), and with individual zoos about the best way forward, also taking expert advice from Defra’s Zoos Expert Committee.

The wide range of licensed zoos, from small and large mixed collections to safari parks, bird of prey centres, reptile houses and aquariums, are facing unprecedented challenges resulting from sudden loss of visitors and significant loss of income, along with staff and volunteer shortages. Of course, this industry must also continue to meet their statutory and moral obligations in respect of animal welfare.

2. Financial support for zoos and aquariums

The Government has announced unprecedented support for public services, workers and businesses to protect against the current economic emergency. The Government is also committed to protecting animal welfare and recognises that zoos and aquariums already in financial distress will already be working hard to access the government financial support schemes. For this reason, a Zoos Support Fund will be established for licensed zoos and aquariums. Similar support will be provided by the Devolved Administrations.

If your zoo or aquarium is in severe financial distress and you have fully explored and exhausted all other reasonable avenues to generate income and reduce costs, including the existing COVID-19 business support schemes, then please contact us as quickly as possible.

The Government believe this Fund will allow us to work with you on a case by case basis to explore options for short-term emergency funding. This financial assistance is intended to enable zoos and aquariums to care for their animals during this crisis and/or support their rehoming in another appropriate setting. We are developing the details of the scheme and will be in touch with further information shortly. In the meantime, please work through the steps set out below, as exhausting these possibilities will be a pre-requisite for any application to the scheme.

3. Steps you can take

o Proactively communicate with current and past donors, and make use of social media, websites, online crowd funding, press and other forums, to increase donations.
o Explore whether additional support is available through your commercial bank and landlord (e.g. mortgage/rent holidays beyond the three-month evictions ban, additional overdraft facilities, commercial loans, etc.).
o Explore whether additional support is available within the sector, possibly by collaboration with other zoos.
o Make use of the HMG Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, Business Interruption Loans, business rates reliefs, and VAT postponements
o Attempt to re-negotiate prices and seek to defer payments with key suppliers.
o Put in place any and all cost-saving measures to temporarily reduce your overheads as far as possible, without putting at risk staff safety, or the statutory and moral obligations to protecting your living collection.
o Make use of your insurance* – check the terms and conditions of your insurance policy and speak to your broker if in doubt.
o Consider furloughing staff as far as possible’. 

*If the only barrier to your business making an insurance claim was a lack of clarity from the government on whether zoos are forced to close, you should refer to the guidance produced by HM Treasury at: ment_data/file/873676/Covid-19_fact_sheet_18_March.pdf

The guidance states that “the government’s medical advice of 16 March is sufficient to enable those businesses which have an insurance policy that covers both pandemics and government ordered closure to make a claim – provided all other terms and conditions in their policy are met. Businesses should check the terms and conditions of their specific policy and contact their providers if in doubt.”

If you do contact us, please provide as much information as possible about your situation, including how you have addressed each of the points above.

This guidance has been produced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) on behalf of the Devolved Administrations of Scotland and Northern Ireland for zoo operators and zoo licence holders.

This guidance will be updated on a regular basis as new information becomes available.

4. Questionnaire

We would also be grateful for as many zoos as possible to complete the questionnaire available from the email address below, which will help us better understand the position of the whole sector at this difficult time. This will help us assess if this support is helping your industry.

Please save a copy and send back to us, with a copy of your current animal inventory list attached to the email, at: Please respond as soon as possible, and by Friday 1st May at the latest. Thank you.

You can contact us at the following email address with any questions:

Animal Welfare Team