CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

DEFRA – REOPENING OF ZOOS [51520] – 29 May 2020

Dr Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of techniques of maintaining social distancing applied by Jersey Zoo since its reopening on 12 May 2020; whether the site-specific plans for safe reopening of UK zoos have been evaluated by his Department; if he will make it his policy to allow zoos to reopen in Step Two in accordance with the safety plans currently prepared by them; and how many days' notice he plans to give to zoos once a reopening date has been chosen.  [51520]

[Due for Answer on 4 June.]

ANSWER

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Victoria Prentis): We understand the challenges faced by zoos and aquariums during these unprecedented times.

Defra officials have met with Jersey zoo since they reopened and have discussed the measures they have put in place, including:

  • Visitors to wear masks
  • Use of Protective screens at indoor contact points
  • Signage reminding visitors and staff of social distancing, frequent handwashing and the need to cover mouths if sneezing etc.
  • Floor taping to identify distances
  • Keeping indoor attractions closed
  • Social areas including café/playgrounds to remain closed
  • Limited entry numbers with pre-booking slots
  • Provision of hand sanitiser at frequent points
  • No public talks

Defra officials have been engaging with the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) on their industry guidelines for reopening.

While each individual attraction can be made safer, it’s vital that we do not move too quickly in reopening to ensure public health is protected. Zoos have therefore not been included in the list of outdoor ticketed venues that can reopen yet. As of 1 June 2020 aquariums, zoos and safari parks were added to the list of venues that are legally required to remain closed.

Work is ongoing to understand how and when zoos and aquariums may be able to reopen in a safe way to the public whilst maintaining social distancing.

We are meeting regularly with BIAZA to provide updates on the reopening position and have also emailed all licenced zoos with an update for 1 June. We will notify these again when there any further updates to the current position.