'Income is at rock bottom' - Colchester Zoo director reflects on tough year

One of zookeepers counting the lemurs at Colchester Zoo, for its annual 'big count'.

One of zookeepers counting the lemurs at Colchester Zoo, for its annual 'big count'. - Credit: Colchester Zoo

The boss of Colchester Zoo has warned "income is at rock bottom" as he reflects on almost a year of coronavirus restrictions and thanks supporters for their generosity.

Like many businesses, Colchester Zoo has been forced to close its doors to the paying public for months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite its gates being closed and all income being stopped, the zoo's running costs have continued as the animals need to be looked after.

The site in Maldon Road first closed to the public in March 2020 and was unable to allow customers back to the park until June.

When the second lockdown was announced in November, the zoo closed again, and it has since stayed that way. 

Dr Tropeano OBE has written an honest reflection about the past year and the struggles the pandemic created for the popular attraction, after losing £4million in turnover.


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He reflected on the devastating number of deaths and the families who have been changed forever, but also for how we came to understand and cherish the task of the NHS, rather than take it for granted. 

"The NHS is not a machine, it is made of people who have made great sacrifices, some losing their life trying to save others.

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"It is hoped that from now on, never again will the NHS running cost be a political matter."

Colchester Zoo director Dr Dominique Tropeano Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Colchester Zoo director Dr Dominique Tropeano Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Dr Tropeano said the zoo has struggled, and it has only survived because of the generosity of people who came to its rescue.

"Our income is at present rock bottom, but running a zoo, even closed, still costs thousands of pounds every day, for the animals care and comfort," he explained.

"Thankfully we had always been very careful with our spending and whilst most of our cash reserve has now disappeared, we have, up until now, been able to survive helped by many financial donations and other acts of kindness."

He said the levels of infection at the moment gives his team some hope, and with spring around the corner perhaps there will be daylight at the end of the tunnel.

The ring-tailed lemurs being counted by staff at Colchester Zoo.

The ring-tailed lemurs being counted by staff at Colchester Zoo. - Credit: Colchester Zoo

He hopes that later this month the prime minister will be in a position to give a green light of hope for March or April, so his team will be able to proudly re-open the zoo's doors.

He has pleaded for people's support once they are allowed to reopen but reminded people that they will be limited by numbers allowed in at one time. 

"When we re-open we need your visits, not only will we enjoy your company, but we have also conducted a low-level research analysis and strongly believe that many species of animals, because of the change of behaviour over the past months, have missed you as their daily therapy," he said. 

"So please come along but understand there will be limits to the number of visitors we can allow in at one time, so please also be patient and understanding."

He also reflected on the impact coronavirus has had on jobs, schools closing, and how the high street has been changed for the foreseeable future, if not forever. 

Suzanne and William Coleman near the elephant enclosure at Colchester Zoo. A visit to the zoo is alw

Suzanne and William Coleman near the elephant enclosure at Colchester Zoo. - Credit: Archant

But despite all the gloom and the devastating impacts of the virus, he said we saw "so much kindness and generosity" and learnt to understand better how much mental illness impacts so many. 

He said: "We will remember this period as a period that has changed our lives, maybe our beliefs too but it must also remind us of the kindness, the generosity, and even some heroism of many men and women.

"Never should we forget this and let us all learn to be kind and respectful to our neighbour but also to Mother Nature so our children and grandchildren will be able to live and prosper in peace."

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