Zoos reopen after devastating lockdown

Two by two: Visitors will have to book in advance and maintain social distancing. © PA

Do we really need zoos? The government has announced that animal attractions in the UK can open their doors again – but many zoos are in trouble after missing out on months of visitors.

What’s happening

Tom, Tayo, and Tico are more curious than usual. They walk over to the ropes to peer down at a small group of people. Usually, these giraffes at Bristol Zoo are used to seeing more than 3,000 visitors a day. But, for nearly three months, they have seen no human beings apart from their keepers.

Find out more

Visitors have not been allowed in zoos since the sites were forced to close on 23 March. Last week, the government announced that restrictions could finally be lifted.

The decision came after zoos warned that they might have to shut down. Months of lockdown mean that the attractions have missed out on income from visitors. Meanwhile, the sites have continued paying keepers and vets who have had to carry on looking after the thousands of living creatures in their care.

About 30 million Britons visit zoos each year. They are important conservation sites for hundreds of rare species. Supporters say that zoos offer an opportunity to interact with animals. Critics say they are relics of past cruel attitudes to wildlife.

Do we need zoos?

Some say…

No. Animals are not meant to be kept in cages – they should be allowed to live in their natural habitat. Conservation work can be done far better in the wild, in Safari parks and protected areas. We have no need to look at animals behind bars anymore. Documentaries and films give us the opportunity to experience animals where they belong.

Others think…

Of course, we do! Zoos are important centres of education, research, and conservation. Ideally, we would not need them, but in a world of climate change and habitat destruction, zoos provide protection for the world’s endangered species. They spread awareness about extinction and allow researchers to study and better understand rare species.

You Decide

  1. Is it wrong to breed animals in captivity?

Activities

  1. Design a map of a new zoo that allows all the animals to enjoy the best lives possible.

Some People Say...

“The only creature on Earth whose natural habitat is a zoo, is a zookeeper.”

Robert Brault, American author

What do you think?

Word Watch

Restrictions
Rules that control whether shops and visitor attractions can open during the pandemic.
Income
Money received on a regular basis from work. Zoos recieve income from visitors paying to look around.
Conservation
Preservation and protection of the natural environment or wildlife. Many zoos protect rare species from extinction.
Interact
To communicate with and react to something or someone.
Relics
Objects from the past that are now unfashionable or unnecessary.
Habitat destruction
When a natural habitat becomes incapable of supporting its native species. A major form of habitat loss is deforestation.

Subjects

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