Zoos across England are preparing their animals for the big reopening next Monday with many newborns set to meet the public for the first time after being born during the third lockdown.
Among the biggest zoos to reopen their gates on April 12 will be London Zoo, Chester Zoo and Colchester Zoo – with various safety measures in place such as one-way systems and social distancing markers.
A raft of other venues across the country will also welcome visitors again, including Blackpool Zoo, Whipsnade Zoo, Bristol Zoo, Twycross Zoo, Marwell Zoo, Longleat Safari Park, Banham Zoo and Paignton Zoo.
Some have even welcomed some new arrivals while they have been closed, including Blackpool Zoo where wallaby joeys and small primates including Spider monkeys, Saki monkeys and Red titi monkeys have been born.
Zoos are all allowed to reopen next week under step two of the roadmap out of lockdown – along with theme parks, including Legoland Windsor, Thorpe Park, Alton Towers and Chessington World of Adventures.
Meanwhile English Heritage is reopening Stonehenge next Monday, along with Boscobel House and the Royal Oak in Shropshire, with all tickets having to be bought online in advance and indoor areas remaining closed.
Keeper Poppy Tooth gives pygmy goats extra attention during lockdown at London Zoo as it prepares to open next Monday
Keeper Martin Franklin cleans Penguin Beach at London Zoo as the park gets ready for the big reopening next week
Zookeepers sweep the goat walk at London Zoo which is already sold out for the first week as it reopens next Monday
Zookeeper Dan Simmonds wears a mask and gloves to take delivery of fresh fruit and vegetables for primates at London Zoo
Social distance markers are laid out at London Zoo which reopens next Monday, with tickets already sold out for the first week
London Zoo workers Eddie Donovan and Jamie Turner measure out two metres to help with social distancing at the site
Three one-way routes have been implemented around the zoo which will help with maintaining social distancing
London Zoo is set to become one of the capital’s first major attractions to reopen after being closed during the third lockdown – and the first week is already sold out, with tickets now only available from April 19.
Three one-way routes have been implemented around the zoo, and certain indoor areas have been closed. The on-site restaurant is only operating a takeaway service, along with the smaller catering kiosks around the zoo.
England’s biggest zoos by annual visitor numbers
- Chester Zoo 2,086,785
- ZSL London Zoo 1,157,076
- Longleat Safari & Adventure Park 1,011,314
- Colchester Zoo circa 1,000,000
- Yorkshire Wildlife Park 841,934
- ZSL Whipsnade Zoo 732,672
- Bristol Zoo Gardens 512,934
- Paignton Zoo Environmental Park 427,080
- Needham Lake and Nature Reserve 379,600
- Wild Place Project 317,031
- Dudley Zoological Gardens 311,219
- Bocketts Farm Park 285,932
- National Marine Aquarium 272,301
- Ogden Water Country Park 270,000
- WWT Slimbridge 261,751
- Godstone Farm 238,660
- Banham Zoo 229,935
- WWT Martin Mere 192,443
- WWT London 190,206
- Avon Valley Adventure and Wildlife Park 165,000
Data from VisitEngland for 2019 (except Colchester)
The park is also only accepting contactless payments including debit cards, credit cards, Apple Pay and Google Pay, while it has placed hand sanitizer and handwash stations at regular points around the site.
Social distancing markers have been laid out in areas where queues might occur, such as the zoo entrance, will all visitors must pre-book tickets online – including members, fellows and patrons.
Indoor enclosures and walk-throughs are closed, but in any indoor areas which area open, people must wear a face covering. The zoo has also postponed several promotions so it can control numbers more effectively.
There is no time limit on how long people can stay during their visit, but to manage capacities and ensure safe distancing, bosses have recommended that people stay no longer than four hours.
The Animal Adventure play equipment is open, but the Splash Park remains closed. The on-site shops are also closed, but the open-air picnic areas are open with tables spaced two metres apart.
Chester Zoo is also set to reopen next Monday and has asked visitors to not come if they or anyone they have been in contact with has symptoms of coronavirus.
Bosses are urging people to clean their hands regularly using the hand sanitising stations, and avoid touching surfaces, such as fences and information boards, and stand behind the yellow line at viewing windows.
Staff will work to keep visitor numbers to a safe level in spaces where keeping two metres apart is harder, and people are asked not to meet or socialise at the zoo in groups of more than six people or two households.
Guests are also being asked to avoid dwelling too long in indoor spaces or at viewing points and be patient if they have to wait for other visitors to move on.
All visitors must wear a face covering when visiting all indoor spaces at the zoo, including its shops, takeaway food outlets and animal houses, except for children aged under 11 and those with medical or other exemptions.
For animal health reasons people must also wear a face covering when visiting the lemur walk through experience – and this applies to all visitors excluding children under three when carried by an adult.
Zookeeper Kate Sanders prepares food for the animals at London Zoo as staff continue to look after various species
Ede the okapi, born in September 2020 at London Zoo (left), and December newborn Margaret the giraffe (right), named in celebration of the UK’s first coronavirus vaccine recipient, 91-year-old Margaret Keenan
Zookeeper Glynn Hennessy prepares breakfast for the gorillas at London Zoo as life continues there during lockdown
Keepers maintain social distancing on site at London Zoo as they take food to feed the animals under their care
Staff at London Zoo have placed hand sanitizer and handwash stations at regular points around the site to help with hygiene
London Zoo has faced huge losses while closed during the pandemic but is finally set to open again next Monday
At Colchester Zoo, which will also reopen next Monday, bosses have imposed restrictions on the number of visitors allowed in per day to ensure they can comply with social distancing measures.
All visitors must buy or reserve tickets in advance online, with passes available in timed slots so that the park can space out arrival times. This is based on 30-minute slots throughout the day, but refers to arrival time only.
Staff are receiving daily health checks before starting work and wearing the relevant PPE, and thorough and regular deep cleaning and disinfecting is being carried out across the zoo throughout the day.
Indoor areas which are not throughways will remain closed for the time being, with all visitors asked to follow social distancing rules and look out for the orange ‘high traffic area’ signs and be extra vigilant in these areas.
A Colchester Zoo worker cleans the bear pool in preparation for the park in Essex to reopen next Monday
A staff member at Colchester Zoo cleans the windows in the aardvark enclosure at the site in Essex which is reopening soon
A keeper feeds a tiger at Paradise Wildlife Park in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, which is among the zoos reopening next week
Keepers at Paradise Wildlife Park in Hertfordshire have been busy looking after their animals while the lockdown continues
A tiger is fed through the bars of their enclosure by a worker at Paradise Wildlife Park in Hertfordshire
Face masks are mandatory in areas of Paradise Wildlife Park in Hertfordshire, as this sign held up by an employee shows
Additional hand sanitising stations are available throughout the park, while toilet facilities are also open but will be limited as bosses focus on keeping the open areas more thoroughly disinfected.
At Blackpool Zoo, keepers have been looking after more than 1,000 animals during the succession of lockdowns and regional tier restrictions – including a host of new babies which have born while the park has been shut.
Wallaby joeys and small primates including Spider monkeys, Saki monkeys and Red titi monkeys are now waiting to meet visitors for the first time – with staff continuing their feeding, cleaning and health checks for all animals.
Four Asian small-clawed otters, who are the smallest otter species in the world, have also been born at the zoo, which is a 37-acre open space and will be limiting visitor numbers each day when it reopens next Monday.
Saki monkeys are among the newborn species at Blackpool Zoo as it prepares to reopen to visitors next Monday
A wallaby joey has also been born during lockdown at Blackpool Zoo and will meet the public for the first time next week
Four Asian small-clawed otters, who are the smallest otter species in the world, have also been born at Blackpool Zoo
A red titi monkey (left) and Spider monkey (right) have also been born at Blackpool Zoo during the Covid-19 lockdown
Holly Simms tests out the Carousel ride at Wicksteed Park in Kettering this morning in preparation for it reopening next week
South Parade Pier at Southsea in Hampshire is closed today, pictured, but will be among the venues hoping to reopen soon
The rule of six or two households meeting outdoors will apply at the park and visitors will be asked to follow social distancing guidelines, on-site signage and make use of the hand sanitising points throughout the zoo.
Toilets will be open and manned by attendants to manage numbers within the facilities, while indoor facilities will be closed to the public until the middle of May in line with Government restrictions.
Daily animal talks, feeds and displays have also been suspended for the time being to aid social distancing, but keepers have instead created podcasts for visitors to listen to as they walk around the zoo.
The cafés will be open with a reduced menu for takeaway only, while the outdoor eating areas and outdoor children’s play areas will be open.