22nd April 2020.
As lockdown continues, Chester Zoo has launched a fundraising campaign.
At the end of 2019, the whole staff team at Chester Zoo celebrated reaching the landmark point of welcoming 2m visitors, the first time this had ever been reached in the zoo’s history. It was a fantastic achievement of which every member of our staff and volunteer teams are rightly proud.
As a charity, this was particularly significant as income from visitors (tickets, memberships, and money spent at the zoo in cafes and shops) is our main source of revenue and allows us to invest in our vital mission of preventing extinction.
Of course, just as with many other businesses, the zoo is now closed to visitors due to Covid-19. Whilst we have furloughed approximately half of the zoo team, those involved in animal care, site management and critical functions, continue to work, from home or on site.
Our costs are still high (it costs us £465,000 per month to look after the animals and plants) but our revenue is now significantly reduced. We do, however, have over 120,000 loyal members who support us by continuing their membership. For this we are incredibly grateful. Like many other zoos we have launched a fundraising campaign, and are working with fellow zoos to lobby government to support those zoos that need it most.
As lockdown continues, our work is focussed on maintaining our exceptional levels of animal care, of keeping our profile high through our online channels and media activity, and on preparing for opening, whenever that comes. We will be doing everything we can to create a safe environment for our visitors and staff, managing visitor numbers, facilitating and encouraging social distancing, and providing numerous hand washing stations around the zoo.
Whilst we cannot open, we’re finding other ways to engage with our members, visitors, and indeed the wider world. On Friday 27th March we “opened our gates” in our first virtual zoo day, broadcasting live from around the zoo, through our Facebook channel. We were staggered by the levels of engagement. It certainly hit the spot for those at home, particularly those looking for something to occupy children! The video streams of our wonderful keepers and animals quickly reached over 12 million views and the zoo’s Facebook following, which was already the biggest of all the UK zoos, increased by an incredible 46% in just 24 hours.
‘Chester Zoo’ was a top 10 UK trend on Twitter on the Friday of the tour from around 6am until the early afternoon, peaking at number three. It was also trending in the top 25 the night before, such was the anticipation for the event. We also spotted ‘red pandas’ – one of the species we featured – trending on the day. We’re not sure whether that has ever happened before so it’s brilliant that we were able to put a major spotlight on such a special, but sadly endangered, species.
Most media outlets in the UK, and indeed lots around the world, latched on to the story, as did various celebrities, politicians, companies, councils and other high profile accounts on social media. The day wasn’t designed to be a fundraiser, but we also had many people head to our website to donate to us – the reaction from all quarters really has been phenomenal.
The number of messages the zoo is receiving to thank us has been never ending.
The second week we extended our reach by broadcasting on YouTube in addition to Facebook, and once again Chester Zoo trended, ranked 7th in the UK, up there with ‘The Body Coach’ Joe Wicks and his PE lessons!
A third virtual zoo day followed, and this Friday 24th April, we’ll be “opening” our gates again. We hope you can join us.
Through the educational value the live tours offer, particularly to all of those home-schooling, it’s great to be giving something back to the community and doing our bit to support the nation in this time of crisis. Plus, we’re putting lots of smiles on lots of faces too!
We sincerely hope we can welcome you to the zoo soon. Take care and stay safe.