Marwell Zoo has reopened after three months of closure, with support from a £4.3 million Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) from NatWest.
The zoo was forced to close in March due to the COVID-19 lockdown, missing out on the usual busy trade over Easter, May bank holidays and recent spell of good weather.
The funding from NatWest enabled the charity that owns the zoo, Marwell Wildlife, to continue caring for its 2,000 animals across its 140-acre park.
After officially reopening on the 3rd July, the zoo has unveiled its summer event SUPERSIZED! that features a collection of giant animal sculptures across the park, all made from toy bricks.
Safety measures have been put in place to protect guests, staff and animals, including online booking for guests, to limit numbers and ensure social distancing is maintained. All indoor animal areas and indoor cafes will remain closed however outdoor catering and retail options are available with card payments.
Marwell Zoo usually welcomes 500,000 visitors a year as well as more than 50,000 students in its award-winning classroom learning programme. There is also a kindergarten on site for children aged two to five, including a one-and-a-half-acre outdoor play area.
Marwell Wildlife is responsible for a number of conservation projects across the world in Kenya, China, Tunisia and Zimbabwe. The charity also partners with University of Southampton to support students completing Masters degrees in Wildlife Conservation as well as providing academic supervision for those completing research or a PhD.
The zoo recently unveiled its £8m Tropical House exhibit project that includes a biomass boiler to turn animal waste into low carbon energy, saving the organisation an annual cost of £140,000 on its waste disposal alone and supporting its mission to be carbon neutral by 2022.
James Cretney, chief executive of Marwell Wildlife, said: “The funding from NatWest has helped tide us over in this difficult period during the COVID-19 lockdown. The feedback from visitors on reopening has been phenomenal and the response to the social distancing measures we’ve put in place has been great – helping ensure everyone who visits, feels safe.
“Our focus now is taking forward our growth plans. We are excited to unveil our world exclusive exhibition of supersized toy brick sculptures as well as opening our refurbished meerkat enclosure and our Wallaby Walkthrough experience which we hope visitors will love.”
Danny Haywood, relationship manager at NatWest, said: “Marwell Wildlife do amazing work to conserve species and their habits in the wild. The income from the zoo is a necessary lifeline to keep the charity going, so it was important for us to provide support with a CBILS loan. The team at Marwell have worked incredibly hard to re-open and we were pleased to have been able to play a part in helping them achieve this.”