Mixed reaction as changes to Tier 4 rules mean zoos can reopen

Africa Alive

Banham Zoo and Africa Alive have reopened after the Government said they could under Tier 4, although all indoor areas and some elements of the attractions will be off limits. - Credit: Archant

Two zoos in Norfolk and Suffolk have reopened after the government made changes to the Tier 4 rules.

Africa Alive in Kessingland, near Lowestoft, and Banham Zoo, in Banham, near Diss, are both welcoming visitors, albeit for shorter days and with all animal houses and restaurants remaining shut.

Both attractions are open from 10am to 2pm everyday, including New Year's Day, with visitors enjoying half price entry.

Tickets must be booked in advance and in timed slots.

A charge of £1 is being made for under-threes "to ensure the zoos' survival".

Joint managing director Claudia Roberts said it was "a difficult call".

Entry has been limited to 800 people a day across 50 acres with controls in place across the park.

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With gates closed for months and no income from visitors the zoos had received no financial support from government, she added, while stressing the benefits for mental wellbeing of a family day out.

"We have cut our costs and made it as safe as we can," she said.

"It's no different to asking someone to walk in a London park."

Both Africa Alive and Banham Zoo posted on Facebook saying that they were "so pleased" the government had published an amended Statutory Instrument which permits outdoor attractions, including zoos, to remain open in Tier 4 areas.

Banham Zoo

Signs at Banham Zoo showing how a family day out has changed during the pandemic as we all adhere to social distancing. - Credit: Denise Bradley

The post said indoor locations around the zoo, including animal houses and restaurant areas, would remain closed although they were offering takeaway refreshments.

People on social media were quick to react, with many hailing the change as "brilliant news" and saying they intended to visit soon.

Others, however, said they were bemused.

Emma Jeeves said: "This is good to see.. But doesn't this contradict the 'only essential travel' - can't make their minds up can they?"

Lee Bunting added: "So you can't see family in Tier 4 but you can go to the zoo? I thought you were not allowed to travel into a Tier 4 area or travel around in a Tier 4 and it was basically lockdown? I'm beginning to think I've lost the plot with this whole lockdown thing now."

Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens, near Great Yarmouth, said it had decided to remain shut for the time being.

Thrigby Hall

Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens near Great Yarmouth is remaining closed under Tier 4, despite a Government rule change which came in on Christmas Eve saying zoos could reopen. - Credit: Archant

A spokesman said: "We have taken the view that with the increase in the infection rate it would not be in the public spirit to open up.

"It is giving mixed messages."

Amazona Zoo in Cromer said that taking everything into consideration it would be staying closed.

Imogen White, manager, said that while they would be reviewing the situation, Tier 4 had forced their hand.

Colchester Zoo remains closed until further notice, and Linton Zoo in Cambridgeshire said it is also remaining closed.

A post on its website said: "We have taken the decision, alongside many of our regional zoo colleagues in Tier 4, to remain closed whilst the government's message is to stay at home and stay safe."

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