Colchester Zoo announces plans to reopen its gates in April
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
Colchester Zoo has welcomed the news it will be allowed to reopen to visitors in April following months of closures but says it will need further support from the Government to aid its recovery.
Zoos and other outdoor attractions will be allowed to reopen on April 12 under the Government's "roadmap" out of the lockdown restrictions in England, as long as Covid cases continue to fall, and the vaccine programme makes enough progress.
The zoo has welcomed this "tentative date"; however, bosses are still concerned about what restrictions may be in place and how this will affect the business.
A zoo spokesman said it also needs further support from the Government, and they are anxiously waiting to find out whether the furlough scheme, business rate holiday and lowering of VAT will be extended.
They said this would "continue to aid" its recovery after a £4million loss as a result of the pandemic.
"Zoos have received no other funding since our first closure back in March 2020 so we have had to live on very much restricted funding whilst ensuring our animals receive all the welfare they need," the spokesman said.
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"Reopening is not just about opening our front gate, a zoo is a well-oiled machine and whilst the Animal Care Team have worked as normal, our retail, catering and guest services have closed their doors and it will mean starting all over again which is a massive undertaking."
The zoo said reopening will not only be great for staff and visitors, but also for the animals who have missed the interaction.
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The spokesman said it hopes the reopening will be one that will keep the site in Maldon Road open for the long run.
It pledged that the zoo will be an "ideal, safe and controlled environment" for people to visit to reunite with friends and family when safe to do so.
Dr DA Tropeano OBE, the zoo's managing director, added: "This has been a long and difficult road, we have discovered qualities we did not know we had, we have discovered how resilient we are, we have discovered what we mean to many, we have discovered that we are special."
Whilst the enclosure has been closed, Colchester Zoo staff have been collaborating with ZSL Whipsnade Zoo on a fantastic elephant project.
The project uses thermal cameras to identify the heat signature of elephants, spearheading the creation of the Human-Elephant Alert Technologies (HEAT) project.
Cameras have been set up around the zoo taking thermal pictures of its elephants; from different distances, at different angles, and whilst the elephants are doing different things, such as training or reaching up to eat food.
The images of the African elephants can also be compared to those of the Asian elephants at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo to detect the differences in size and shape of the different species.
The thousands of thermal photographs collected are being used to “train” camera technology to recognise what an elephant looks like, and at present the “model” created can confidently identify elephants and people up to 30 metres away.
The project is being run to help develop a low-cost camera system that can be used in the field.
It will be able to detect elephants 24/7 as it can “see” the thermal shape of elephants (even in the dark), sending an alert to communities living around elephants so they can avoid any conflict situations.
For more details about this exciting project, see here.