Banham Zoo in Norfolk and Africa Alive! in Suffolk have announced a “survival business plan”, cutting almost 70 jobs.

Eastern Daily Press: Banham Zoo. Pic: Archant library/Joshua DyballBanham Zoo. Pic: Archant library/Joshua Dyball (Image: Joshua Dyball)

The Zoological Society of East Anglia (ZSEA), which runs Banham Zoo and Africa Alive! announced the plan to give the attractions a “fighting chance of survival in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic”. The plan will see a third of the workforce lose their jobs.

It comes as both zoos have had to remain closed since lockdown and it also revealed it had been turned down for a recent government zoo support grant.

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Eastern Daily Press: Former CEO at the Zoological Society of East Anglia, David Field, who left to take up a new job in Scotland. Pic: ArchantFormer CEO at the Zoological Society of East Anglia, David Field, who left to take up a new job in Scotland. Pic: Archant

Trustee chairman Gerard Smith has written to all 201 employees to explain the necessary steps which the trustees and leadership team propose taking in order to ensure ZSEA can survive and be sustainable for the future. The announcement is also being shared with the charity’s volunteers, partner organisations and fundraisers who have been rallying to support it during the pandemic.

It issued this statement: “At the heart of the plan is a proposed restructure with urgent cost cutting measures which will protect the life of the charity in the unprecedented circumstances of Covid-19.”

Mr Smith said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has without doubt touched us all both personally and professionally and whilst it has been a massive blow to the charity it has been heartening to see how our community has come together to fight for our survival.

Eastern Daily Press: Claudia Roberts, MD. Pic: submittedClaudia Roberts, MD. Pic: submitted

“None of us could have foreseen the devastating effects of this public health crisis. Banham Zoo and Africa Alive! have both been closed to the public since the end of March and this has caused a very serious loss in financial revenue of around £1.5 million to date.”

He went on to say they believed the government would enforce certain restrictions on tourist attractions to ensure social distancing and these restrictions “will result in reduced numbers of visitors and therefore reduced income for the foreseeable future”.

And he added: “The loss in income is compounded by the fact that the charity’s recent application for a government zoo support grant has been declined for both Banham Zoo and Africa Alive!”

The trustee chairman’s letter to staff will be followed up with further details for employees given by newly appointed joint managing directors Claudia Roberts and Gary Batters. Outgoing chief executive David Field has this week started a new role at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.

Eastern Daily Press: Gary Batters, MD. Pic: submittedGary Batters, MD. Pic: submitted

Ms Roberts said: “We are immensely proud of the fact that many of our colleagues have invested many years in Banham Zoo and Africa Alive! and are like a family, which makes this difficult announcement especially hard.

“We are proposing to make a number of redundancies as well as change some of the remaining roles to ensure that as a team we are able to meet our long-term future goals. The large majority of these proposed changes will mainly be roles in the commercial side of the organisation.

“These are unprecedented circumstances and we have had incredible support from our local communities who have been fundraising in response to our Be Amazing appeal. Our mission of connecting our communities to nature for conservation has been at the heart of our decision making and the role of our local communities, volunteers and fundraisers, alongside our team, has never been more important.”

A 30-day period of consultation with all the teams will begin and a skeleton team is currently working hard to prepare for the safe reopening of both Banham Zoo and Africa Alive! to the public, hoped to be from July.

Mr Batters said: “We are fighting for our survival...if we take the proposed difficult but necessary steps then we are in with a chance of getting the charity back on track post Covid-19.

“If we can achieve this, then our vision is that we continue to be an East Anglian leader in conservation and zoo best practice. Zoos have an unrivalled position to engage with our visitors and the greater community. We have an opportunity to directly connect people to wildlife and this frequently changes people’s attitudes towards wild animals and conservation. It also brings positive education and wellbeing benefits.”

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