COLCHESTER Zoo staff gave visitors a continued round of applause as they arrived into the attraction for the first time in 108 days.

The Maldon Road attraction was able to reopen today as lockdown rules eased bringing a much-needed boost for the struggling facility.

Ticket sales for the zoo opened over the weekend and there were almost 8,000 people in the queue waiting to book tickets by 11am on Saturday.

Some of the first visitors to walk into the zoo yesterday were Grace Kearney, nine, and her dad, Paul.

Grace said: “I am so exited to be here because we have not been able to go to the zoo for such a long time.”

Tim Laws, who managed to get a ticket for the reopening date, said he was there to take as many pictures of the zoo’s inhabitants as he could.


Emily Canham and her children Arthur, six, and Libby, eight, said they were really lucky to get their tickets for yesterday.

Emily said: “There were about 30,000 people on the online queuing system when I was trying to book our tickets.”

Arthur and Libby said they could not wait to see the elephants and red pandas in their enclosures.

The high demand for tickets came as a relief for the zoo’s managing director Dr Dominque Tropeano, who said funds for the facility were almost “at the bottom of the barrel”.

He said: “If we were a factory we would have been able to switch the power off and close during the pandemic, but a zoo cannot work that way because we have animals.


“We need vets and zoo keepers and we need to feed the animals at the zoo.”

Colchester Zoo costs about £7.2 million per year to run - about £600,000 a month.

Over the past year cuts have had to be made to planned improvements, including a new £1.5 million education centre, as well as to the support offered to conservation projects.

Some staff have also lost their jobs, however, supporters have raised hundreds of thousands of pounds to support to zoo over this difficult time.

Dr Tropeano said the zoo once had to close for a month when the foot and mouth outbreak struck the country.

He said: “At the time, we wondered how we would have survived if we had to close for longer than a month.

“Back then, if we had to close for longer than a month we would not have been able to reopen.


“So this time around we set aside enough money to close for longer is something similar happened.”

He said he never anticipated a pandemic, but the foot and mouth outbreak taught him to put funding aside in case the zoo ever needed to close again.

Dr Tropeano now hopes the whole of the zoo, including the cafés and indoor sections, will be able to reopen on May 17 in line with the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown.

Colchester’s Visitor Information Centre at Hollygtrees Museum also reopened yesterday with social distancing guidelines in place.