CHESTER ZOO is ready to reopen its gates on April 12, as the third coronavirus lockdown eases in England.

Conservationists at the zoo say being able to finally welcome back visitors is a “big relief” as the UK’s most popular charity zoo strives to recover from an estimated £11.5m in losses caused by the pandemic.

With no access to a tailored government support fund, the zoo, a registered conservation and education charity, has relied on the support of the public and its members to help it navigate several months of closure.

In June 2020, during the first lockdown, more than £3m was donated to the zoo’s Save Our Zoo fundraising campaign, while its Virtual Zoo Days on its social media channels have generated 20 million views and proved a viral hit as they helped with home-schooling.

Jamie Christon, CEO at Chester Zoo, said: “This has been, and continues to be, an incredibly challenging period for our charity zoo.

"Several months of closure meant that we were only able to welcome around half the number of visitors in 2020 that we’d usually expect to see, while we’ve had none so far in 2021 – a huge blow to our finances given that visitors make up 97 per cent of our income.

“In line with the government’s road map out of lockdown, it’s therefore a big relief that we’re able to reopen our 128-acre zoo on April 12, and hopefully we can now finally start to return to some financial stability. Crucially, however, we’ll need to stay open.

“Conservation cannot wait. The planet is losing species faster than ever before and that’s why it’s absolutely vital that we get back on track as soon as possible and continue our mission to prevent extinction.”

The 128-acre zoo, which is home to more than 20,000 animals and 500 different species – many highly threatened in the wild – has welcomed a number of high-profile, endangered animal births during the latest lockdown.

As visitors return, they’ll be able to see special new arrivals such as rare Rothschild’s giraffe Albert, endangered okapi calf Nia Nia and critically endangered eastern black rhino Kasulu for the first time.

As per the government’s roadmap, outdoor areas of the zoo will reopen on April 12, but indoor sections will remain closed, in a similar way to how the zoo operated in the first few weeks after the first lockdown ended in June 2020.

Outdoor food and drink kiosks and the zoo’s gift shop will open. All tickets (of which there will be a limited number) must be booked in advance.

Full details can be found on the zoo’s website: