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Banham Zoo and Africa Alive announce survival plan

Tuesday 26th May 2020

The Zoological Society of East Anglia (ZSEA), which runs Banham Zoo in Norfolk and Africa Alive in Suffolk, has announced a plan to give our award winning attractions a fighting chance of survival in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Chair of Trustees at the charity, Gerard Smith, has today (26 May) written to 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 during the pandemic.

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.

Gerard Smith, Chair of Trustees at the Zoological Society of East Anglia, says:

“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.

“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.”

The government is expected to enforce certain restrictions on tourist attractions such as Banham Zoo and Africa Alive to ensure social distancing can be adhered to and these restrictions will result in reduced numbers of visitors and therefore reduced income for the foreseeable future. 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 Chair of Trustee’s letter will be followed up with further details for employees given by newly appointed Joint Managing Directors, Claudia Roberts and Gary Batters. Outgoing CEO David Field has this week started a new role at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland which is where he began his career.

Claudia Roberts, Managing Director, Commercial, 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 at Africa Alive and Banham Zoo is designed to facilitate a genuine exchange of views and information and will help in developing the right number and mix of job roles needed for the charity going forward.

Alongside this, a skeleton team is currently working hard to prepare for the safe reopening of both Banham Zoo and Africa Alive to the public from July.

Gary Batters, Managing Director, Zoos, said: “We are fighting for our survival and this is an incredibly difficult time for all our colleagues at Banham Zoo and Africa Alive. 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.”

To find out how to volunteer or fundraise for Africa Alive and Banham Zoo see www.banhamzoo.co.uk/ or the Africa Alive website: /www.africa-alive.co.uk/.

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