For many during lockdown the improved weather was enough to lift spirits and help make the restrictions bearable, even if it only meant not getting soaked on the daily walk.
Now the world has started turning again, those zoos who have been forced to keep their doors shut to the public for a large part of the past 13 months can fling them wide open once more.
Scottish zoo lovers have been able to enjoy the delights of their local attractions since the end of February, while English zoos are set to reopen on Monday, April 12th, with Welsh zoos following two weeks later on April 26th.
Government funding in the shape of the ‘Zoo Animal Fund’ provided access to £100 million, but less than 10% of that has been secured due to having to meet certain criteria, with calls for the remainder to be ring-fenced for a ‘Zoo Recovery Fund’.
Zoos may have been shut to the public, but animals have still needed to be cared for. Chester Zoo, for example, revealed that looking after its 35,000-plus animals costs £465,000 per month. An eye-watering amount, especially when there is no income.
The thought of a mob of meerkats running up to the glass, staring you dead in the eyes and following your every move, watching the penguins perform underwater acrobatics or the monkeys being their impish best, brings a smile to the face.
Sir David Attenborough – and who would argue with him – said as recently as December that it’s important to visit zoos, providing they are scientific, as seeing animals in the flesh can be beneficial for boosting conservation efforts across the globe.
He said: “If you’re talking about animals that have been reduced to less than 100, and the reason is because something has happened in their environment which has made it impossible to survive, you can either sit back and say ‘well, they can look after themselves’, or you’ve got to do something active.”
Educational and important to conservation work. Excellent news all round and just a couple of reasons why heading to the nearest zoo is more than worthwhile.
While parents have been educating their children, there’s been a void for zookeepers up and down the land. It’s been business as usual when it comes to the care of the animals, but there have been no guests to educate, inspire and engage.
It’s a responsibility that parents will be happy to relinquish (for a couple of hours at least!), and the animals may be equally excited to welcome extra attention from outside their family and habitat.
Humans have been learning to adapt to the change, but it’s also been a surreal experience for the animals, whose time in the spotlight just vanished overnight for months on end.
It’s time to give yourself, your family, those treasured animals and zoos an important boost as the sun shines brightly throughout the spring and summer months, and the world slowly starts returning to normal.