Hundreds attend zoo for ‘trial run’ of socially distanced opening
PUBLISHED: 18:26 28 June 2020 | UPDATED: 18:33 28 June 2020
In an effort to try out its new social distancing practices ahead of opening next weekend, a zoo has welcomed hundreds of visitors for the first time in months.
Banham Zoo and Africa Alive were forced to close their doors to the public in early March, and have faced a string of challenges since then after their income fell to almost nothing.
But their unfortunate state of affairs, which left both parks with a shortfall of £1.5m and a third of staff made redundant, looks to be coming to an end as both zoos will be allowed to welcome guests back from Saturday, July 4.
With new procedures in place to limit contact between guests from different households, on Sunday, the park held a successful trial opening exclusive to friends and families of the staff.
600 people were able to safely enjoy the beauty of wildlife at Banham Zoo with the new procedures in place.
The day also served to mark a celebration for its most loyal supporters after fans of the park raised more than £80,000 through various fundraising efforts.
Claudia Roberts and Gary Batters, joint managing directors of Banham Zoo, said the trial run was a success and praised those who had made a “crucial” contribution to the longevity of the park.
“This day was really to make sure all our safety procedures were in place, and to make sure when we do open to the public everything will be okay,” Ms Roberts said.
Mr Batters added: “The most important thing is we know it’s going to be a safe destination for people to come to. We have put in lots of measures to make sure people are socially distanced and that there are no problems or pinch points.”
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Visitors to the park will not be able to pay with cash, and must pre-book to attend the park, changes which have reduced queue time at the entrance from five minutes to nearly 30 seconds.
Hand sanitiser pumps and stickers marking two metres distance cover the park, and the closure of many indoor exhibits and controls at the toilets make it easy for people to remain distanced from one another.
Mrs Roberts said: “Thanks have to go to all of our keepers who have cared for the animals, and to all our volunteers, the fundraisers, and our staff for bearing with us through such a difficult period.”
“It’s really nice to see people’s faces around again. We send a really big thank you to everyone as we have been overwhelmed by the support,” Mr Batters added.
On the trial day, the zoo thanked fundraisers who managed to accrue an incredible £80,000 - roughly the amount it costs to feed and care for every animal at both Banham Zoo and Africa Alive for a month - since the zoo’s struggles were first reported.
Among the fundraisers commended were six-year-old Connor Root, from Harleston, who cycled more than 138 miles in 30 days for the zoo, who has raised nearly £6,500.
Mr Root said: “I got tired but I kept going for my favourite animal, Sam the eagle. I’m happy to be at the zoo - it’s very exciting.”
Kerri and James Root, Connor’s parents, said: “He wanted to do 100 miles but he got there and couldn’t stop. For every mile he does one company is giving £5.
“We thought he might make a few hundred but were blown away. There were a few bumps along the way but we made it. We’re really proud.”
Other top raisers include Melanie Sturman, who arranged a virtual run which 860 people took part in, raising more than £5,300.
She said: “It’s been humbling to see that community cohesion and to do something positive for our zoos. When they can people should come and support the zoo, it’s been great to come today and the set up is definitely safe. They need support more than ever.”
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