Defra announces a major expansion of the Zoos Support Fund, increasing the Fund from £14 million to £100 million

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has announced that zoos and aquariums in England will be able to bid into a £100 million funding pot to help mitigate the impacts of the coronavirus *COVID-19) pandemic. 

Although not yet open to applications, the increased budget represents a major expansion of the £14 million Zoos Support Fund announced in May this year and will run until the end of March 2021 to ensure the necessary long-term support is in place to help with severe financial difficulties.

In England, zoos and aquariums have been able reopen outdoor areas since 15 June, subject to social distancing measures being in place. From 4 July indoor areas such as cafés and exhibits will be able to follow suit. Allowing these businesses to fully reopen is a vital step towards enabling them to cover some of the cost of animal care.

Throughout the pandemic zoos have continued to ensure animal welfare standards are upheld and animals’ health needs are met. This funding will help zoos cover costs relating to animal keeping such as feed, heating and security.

Dr Simon Girling, Chair of the Zoo Experts Committee (ZEC), said:

The Zoo Experts Committee is pleased that the UK Government has listened to the scientific advice of the Committee and not only provided an animal welfare fund at the start of the pandemic for zoos in financial difficulties associated with the lockdown, but they have now made the move to open all parts of zoos from 4 July with appropriate social distancing for public and animal safety.

ZEC welcomes these moves and believes this funding will ensure zoos are able to generate much-needed income to fund the ongoing care of their animals and much of their valuable conservation work at this challenging time for everyone.”

Establishments covered by the Zoo Licensing Act will be able to bid for a portion of the £100 million that has been just made available. There are already a number of support schemes already available to zoos, including the Job Retention Scheme, VAT deferral, Business Rates Relief, the Business Interruption Loan schemes, the option to reclaim the costs of Statutory Sick Pay and grant funding of up to £25,000 available through the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund.

Please note the Fund is not currently open to applications. Further details on the scheme and how to apply will be provided to the sector in due course. We’ll update this article as soon as the Fund opens.

More information about the Zoos Support Fund is available on the GOV.UK website.