‘It’s like a celebration’ for the animals and staff as Twycross zoo reopens | Zoos

As the first families began to filter in to Twycross zoo in Leicestershire on Monday morning, William clapped his hands with excitement.

He is one of 15 chimpanzees at the 40-hectare (100-acre) zoo that have been longing for the return of visitors after months in lockdown.

“They’re so excited that people are coming back. They haven’t seen many people that they haven’t recognised in a while,” said Karen Clarke, the zoo’s chief operating officer. “They love to play and pull funny faces, and they interact with the children as well and the children love it. The chimps almost copy them.”


How England’s Covid lockdown is being lifted


Step 1, part 1

In effect from 8 March, all pupils and college students returned fully. Care home residents can receive one regular, named visitor. 

Step 1, part 2

In effect from 29 March, outdoor gatherings allowed of up to six people, or two households if this is larger, not just in parks but also gardens.
Outdoor sport for children and adults allowed.
The official stay at home order ends, but people will be encouraged to stay local.
People will still be asked to work from home where possible, with no overseas travel allowed beyond the current small number of exceptions.

Step 2

In effect from 12 April, non-essential retail, hair and nail salons, and some public buildings such as libraries and commercial art galleries can reopen. Most outdoor venues can open, including pubs and restaurants, but only for outdoor tables and beer gardens. Customers will have to be seated but there will be no need to have a meal with alcohol.

Also reopening are settings such as zoos and theme parks. However, social contact rules will still apply here, so no indoor mixing between households and limits on outdoor mixing.
Indoor leisure facilities such as gyms and pools can also open, but again people can only go alone or with their own household.
Reopening of holiday lets with no shared facilities is also allowed, but only for one household.
Funerals can have up to 30 attendees, while weddings, receptions and wakes can have 15.

Step 3

Again with the caveat “no earlier than 17 May”, depending on data, vaccination levels and current transmission rates.

Step 3 entails that most mixing rules are lifted outdoors, with a limit of 30 people meeting in parks or gardens.
Indoor mixing will be allowed, up to six people or, if it is more people, two households.
Indoor venues such as the inside of pubs and restaurants, hotels and B&Bs, play centres, cinemas and group exercise classes will reopen. The new indoor and outdoor mixing limits will remain for pubs and other hospitality venues.

For sport, indoor venues can have up to 1,000 spectators or half capacity, whichever is lower; outdoors the limit will be 4,000 people or half capacity, whichever is lower. Very large outdoor seated venues, such as big football stadiums, where crowds can be spread out, will have a limit of 10,000 people, or a quarter full, whichever is fewer.
Weddings will be allowed a limit of 30 people, with other events such as christenings and barmitzvahs also permitted.

This will be the earliest date at which international holidays could resume, subject to a separate review.

Step 4

No earlier than 21 June, all legal limits will be removed on mixing, and the last sectors to remain closed, such as nightclubs, will reopen. Large events can take place.

Peter Walker Political correspondent

Outdoor attractions in England, including zoos and theme parks, have once again been able to open their doors from Monday, with social distancing measures in place and restrictions on numbers. Twycross zoo is operating at 40% capacity with a booking system to ensure crowds are spread out across the day, while handles and surfaces are disinfected regularly.

By midmorning the zoo was starting to fill up with families and lots of delighted children. One was 19-month-old Sophie, who has just started saying the word monkey and was amazed to see the animals in real life, having only known them from books and videos.

Karen Clarke, Twycross zoo’s chief operating officer, with Flynn the chimpanzee
Karen Clarke, Twycross zoo’s chief operating officer, with Flynn the chimpanzee: ‘They’re so excited that people are coming back.’ Photograph: Fabio de Paola/The Guardian

“She’s been shouting at all the monkeys and feeding the birds. It’s really nice that she can start getting more of a sense of what’s out there in the world,” said her father, Jonathan Branch. “We have been a bit lockdown fatigued so we were keen to come back for the first day it was open. And we’ve read about their lack of funding so we wanted to do our bit.”

Due to charity regulations, the zoo was unable to apply to the government’s zoo animals fund and has had to borrow money to cover its costs.

“We can’t furlough our animals,” said Clarke. “They still needed to be fed and looked after, so we had to keep all the keepers on. It’s really difficult to pull back costs completely. We got through our reserves really quickly and it could be up to five years until we get back to where we were financially.”

The zookeepers normally savoured their one day a year – Christmas Day – when they got the animals all to themselves, but now the novelty has worn off and they are pleased to see people back.

“I’m really excited to have the atmosphere back in the zoo again. We just want the buzz back and to see people enjoying the animals as much as we do,” said Yianna Cooling, an animal team leader at the zoo.

Jonathan and Sarah Branch with 19-month-old Sophie
Jonathan and Sarah Branch with 19-month-old Sophie: ‘It’s really nice that she can start getting more of a sense of what’s out there in the world.’ Photograph: Fabio de Paola/The Guardian

Twycross is renowned as a specialist primate zoo – it is the only place in the UK where you can see all types of great ape – and they were the animals that appeared most excited to see humans again, running up to the glass to pull faces and making loud noises as they swung from branches.

But even Jahly the Sumatran tiger seemed content to pose on top of the glass tunnel as visitors walked underneath, and the rainbow lorikeets were overwhelmed by the amount of food on offer from guests keen to entice them down from their branches.

Staff said it had been interesting to monitor how the animals’ behaviour changed during the lockdowns, and the zoo is collaborating with university researchers to assess just what impact the lack of crowds may have had.

Back in the chimp enclosure, the delighted audience watching William began to mirror his clapping and a round of applause broke out. Clarke said: “It’s like a celebration. It’s just so nice to see people back.”


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