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In Lockdown, London Zoo Fights to Survive


A zookeeper interacts with camels at ZSL London Zoo in London, Britain, January 2, 2020. (Reuters Photo/Henry Nicholls)
In Lockdown, London Zoo Fights to Survive
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The London Zoo is one of the city’s most-visited places. During normal times, it is filled with visitors – both young and old.

However as the coronavirus crisis continues, the zoo is once again in lockdown – meaning no visitors at all. No one to watch silly monkeys play in trees, dangerous King Cobras sun on rocks, or friendly penguins slide down slippery surfaces.

A penguin reacts with a zookeeper as it stands on weighing scales at the London Zoo, August 23, 2018. (AP Photo)
A penguin reacts with a zookeeper as it stands on weighing scales at the London Zoo, August 23, 2018. (AP Photo)

Besides that, the lockdown is causing great economic harm. Every month without visitors costs the zoo about $1.4 million dollars, Reuters news agency reports.

So, the future of the world’s oldest scientific zoo is unclear.

“We are losing so much money,” zoo employee Kate Sanders told Reuters, “I’m concerned the zoo might not survive.”

Sanders is the team leader for big cats at the zoo. She added that having no visitors “has been a really sad time for the zoo.”

Here are two big cats. A lioness hits Bhanu the Asiatic lion in the face during an event at the London Zoo in London, Britain, August 9, 2018. (Reuters Photo/Toby Melville)
Here are two big cats. A lioness hits Bhanu the Asiatic lion in the face during an event at the London Zoo in London, Britain, August 9, 2018. (Reuters Photo/Toby Melville)

Located in Regent’s Park in central London, the London Zoo was opened in 1828 by the Zoological Society of London. Charles Darwin visited while writing his “Origin of Species.” Queen Elizabeth II is the zoo’s patron.

Ticket sales

But famous connections will not be enough to keep the zoo open with no visitors. The zoo has already faced millions of pounds in losses and the latest lockdown is again keeping visitors away, even during the usually busy school holidays.

The London Zoo was forced to close for 18 weeks in 2020, Reuters reported. That lockdown caused the zoo to lose 15 million pounds. The latest lockdown is expected to cost another 1.8 million.

The caretakers of the animals, the zookeepers, are sad and anxious.

Black-capped squirrel monkeys are fed treats from a papier-mache Easter egg at ZSL London Zoo in London, Britain, April 18, 2019. (Reuters/Peter Nicholls)
Black-capped squirrel monkeys are fed treats from a papier-mache Easter egg at ZSL London Zoo in London, Britain, April 18, 2019. (Reuters/Peter Nicholls)

The Zoological Society of London also owns Whipsnade Zoo, located north of London. Together the two zoos care for nearly 23,000 animals. All those animals need feeding and other kinds of care. So, the number of zookeepers cannot be reduced any more than it has already.

“We can’t furlough animals,” said Kathryn England, Chief Operating Officer of the London Zoo. “And you can’t furlough all the staff who look after the animals.”

“It just remains so sad that we are closed,” she added.

England says there is another sad part to the lockdowns – not being able to educate and inspire visitors to the zoo.

One purpose of the zoo, England said, is “to inspire people about wildlife.” As long as the zoo remains closed, the staff and zookeepers will keep trying to find other ways to teach the public. But, she added, “nothing really beats having people in the zoo and having a great day out.”

I’m Anna Matteo.

Ben Makori, Hannah Mckay reported this story from London for Reuters. Anna Matteo adapted it for VOA Learning English. Bryan Lynn was the editor.

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Words in This Story

silly – adj. playfully lighthearted and amusing

slippery – adj. having a surface smooth or wet enough to make holding onto or moving or standing on difficult

patron – n. a person who gives money and support to an artist, organization, etc.

peak time – n. the most busy time

anxious – adj. afraid or nervous especially about what may happen : feeling anxiety

furlough – n. a period of time when an employee is told not to come to work and is not paid

staff – n. a group of people who work for an organization or business

inspire – v. to move (someone) to act, create, or feel emotions

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