| Last updated
Chester Zoo has released a plea for supporters to help out after revealing it has lost £5 million so far due to the coronavirus pandemic - and with large outdoor attractions still unable to open following the easing of lockdown, the zoo fears this will only worsen.
All manner of businesses have been closed across the UK since the end of March, as the government seeks to minimise the transmission of the virus.
However, even as lockdown eases for non-essential shops such as clothes shops, bookies and markets, and with people now able to spend more time outdoors - provided social distancing guidelines are adhered to - zoos are still unable to open.
Chester Zoo - the most-visited wildlife attraction in the UK - has now laid bare the extent of its current situation, posting a video to Facebook alongside an impassioned plea for supporters and visitors to help out.
Accompanied by a crowdfunding link, the post reads: "As the UK's biggest and most popular charity zoo, we've tried to stay positive during this pandemic.
"Our conservationists have continued to prevent extinction, our virtual days have cheered up the nation, and our learning resources have helped thousands of home-schooling families.
"But now, as the government has ordered that we may have to stay closed indefinitely, it hurts us to say that this crisis has left us fighting for our future.
"Not being able to open, despite being a huge outdoor site with all the necessary safety measures in place, is having a devastating impact on our much-loved zoo.
"We're heading towards debt in excess of £24m by the end of 2020 - this will financially cripple us. We need to raise £1.6m each month to keep going.
"Meanwhile, we're having to sit back and watch as people are piling onto beaches and into public parks, where there is no way of controlling numbers, no way of guaranteeing people are socially distanced and no way of ensuring safety. We can do all of this.
"We look on as, from this week, private gardens open up, while our own 128 acres of gardens and 16km of pathways remain closed, and under enormous financial pressure.
"We REFUSE to cut corners when it comes to caring for the animals. We REFUSE to give up on our fight to prevent extinction. And because of that, we've now reached the point where we desperately NEED YOUR HELP.
"We need you to SAVE OUR ZOO."
A further statement on the zoo's website added: "Zoo bosses say they have been told by government representatives to prepare for their gates to remain closed 'indefinitely', despite being 'Covid secure' and able to safely limit numbers and enforce social distancing rules - something that public UK beaches, parks and other beauty spots cannot do.
"With revenue from visitors making up 97% of its income, staff say the long period of closure (the zoo has been closed since 21 March) is having a 'devastating impact' on the future of the UK's most visited zoo."
Chester Zoo's chief operating officer Jamie Christon said: "We wanted to remain a beacon of hope.
But now, the government has ordered us to stay closed indefinitely and Chester Zoo is very much fighting for its future. This change in law has flicked a switch for us and, heartbreakingly, our lights are now flickering."
He continued: "We are not prepared to give up this fight and are continually lobbying government across all relevant departments, at all levels. We know we can provide a well-managed, safe environment for our visitors, staff and animals and have invested in all of the required safety features set out by the government, and more. Visitors carefully returning to the zoo is our lifeline."
You can donate to the zoo's crowdfunder here: justgiving.com/campaign/ChesterZooFuture.
Chosen for YouChosen for You
Most Read StoriesMost Read