SOME of Britain's best-loved zoos and aquariums - including Chester Zoo - will shut unless the Government urgently unlocks promised funding, sector leaders have warned.

In June, the UK Government announced a £100 million Zoo Animals Fund to help zoos and aquariums in need of financial support following a drop in income due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite applications opening in August, the Government has now admitted that none of the cash has reached zoos or aquariums.

In response to a written parliamentary question, environment minister Victoria Prentis said only four applications had been received since the Zoo Animals Fund was launched on August 3, all of which are still currently under review.

Labour MP Justin Madders, whose Ellesmere Port and Neston constituency includes Chester Zoo, questioned whether the Government has any intention of helping zoos at all.

He said: "Sadly, this is yet another example of the Government talking a good game but failing on delivery.

"I understand that the restrictive criteria applied to the fund mean that it will be virtually impossible for most zoos to qualify for support.

"It is typical of this two-faced, insincere Government to claim they are offering help to everyone when in reality they are not, just like the three million people who have been excluded from any financial support at all.

"I am concerned that zoos like my own Chester Zoo will face financial ruin unless the Government wake up to the reality that their support fund is an illusion.

"Unfortunately, I fear they already know this and are content to pretend to be helping when they have no intention of doing so at all."

Jamie Christon, chief operating officer at Chester Zoo, said: "The Government has said it is continuing to talk to large zoos like us to explore ways of supporting us and our vital efforts to prevent extinction. But still there is nothing on the table.

"After significant time spent in lengthy and what have been seemingly very positive discussions with Government representatives for several months, this is extremely disappointing for us."

A Government spokesperson said: "We understand the challenges zoos have been facing due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"That is why we put in place this specialist fund specifically to ensure zoos facing severe financial difficulties can provide the best possible care for their animals.

"We are rapidly processing current applications and we stand ready to support any future requests to the fund."

Zoos have until November 16 to apply for the funding.