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Covid-19: Zoos

Volume 684: debated on Thursday 26 November 2020

In addition to the full range of financial support available to all businesses and employers, we have established an extra £100 million support fund for those who are facing severe financial difficulty, and the deadline for applications to the fund has been extended to the end of January.

On a recent visit to Chester zoo, I saw its excellent conservation work and learned at first hand about the remarkable way it is coping with the coronavirus pandemic. However, the zoo animals fund criteria for access seem to be very peculiar, because zoos seem to have to be on the verge of closure before they can get any money. Surely that is wrong. Will my hon. Friend look at those criteria again, please?

We listened to concerns following the roll-out of the initial support scheme and we have made changes to reflect that. The zoo animals fund, which is simpler to apply for, is now open to zoos that have up to 12 weeks of reserves left. It can be applied for in advance of that and can include applications for essential planned maintenance.

As we have just heard, zoos have an important conservation role to play. The white-tailed eagle is listed in our 25-year environment plan as a species whose reintroduction we could support as we develop our nature recovery network. Cumbria is at the forefront of nature recovery, as we have a local nature recovery strategy pilot and, separately, we are in a group that has submitted a bid for feasibility work on the white-tailed eagle’s reintroduction. Will my hon. Friend meet me to discuss how her Department might assist with that proposal?

The 25-year environment plan encourages the reintroduction of species such as the white-tailed eagle. I know that my hon. Friend is aware of the funding pots on offer, and officials from the Department would be very pleased to meet him and the project scheme to discuss what further action could be taken.