Dear Zoo Supporter,

2020 has proved to be a rather different year ravaging and decimating many happy lives, bringing the economy down, increasing almost beyond control the number of people with mental health issues and the COVID virus has a cunning way to survive and spread.

When we re-opened in the spring, following a long period of closure bringing us financially on our knees, we believed this was going to be the first step towards bringing some sort of normality back to our working and private life and rejoiced this normality returning.

You could go out, have a drink and order food in a pub, dine at your favourite restaurant, go back to the shops, travel and do many things we used to call ‘normal’ everyday life. Then we saw the beginning of changes, the virus carried on in the background working relentlessly to make its second kill.

The virus has managed to bring back the sleepless nights, all the worries of the spring are here again upsetting our lives both private and professional.

This is a crossroad and a very dangerous one bringing us into unchartered grounds.

Our doors here at Colchester Zoo are now closed and locked, so the tills have stopped ringing. We have to look at what finances we have been able to save, where we must spend it and certainly be very careful because there is no hope of huge funding coming our way.

There is never a right time to see any business close down but it is clear this is the worst thing that could happen to a zoo, including Colchester Zoo.

We know lockdown will be catastrophic for many people and businesses of course but for zoos animal life routines continue, the care, the supervision, the welfare will be delivered by our hard-working Animal Care Team and will be funded the best we can.

We cannot lock the door of animal enclosures and say ‘see you next month’, we can’t even say ‘see you tomorrow’ simply because we have to be here and ensure we do more than the very best for our animals.

At the end, sadly, everything being achieved comes down to money, after the early closure, that ravaged our finances, a small recovery was made with the summer opening, but now we are back to being very concerned regarding our ability to survive.

We have also a great responsibility to ensure our wonderful conservation programme at Umphafa, our Private Nature Reserve in South Africa, continues. This is a unique project by any conservation-minded zoo which we are immensely proud of, a refuge for hundreds of wild animals, employing some 50 members of the local community helping feed their families the best they can under the circumstances.

Should we not be able to re-open our doors early December, it will feel like clouds gathering in a dark winter sky and a storm of gigantic proportion will hit us. Its force may prove to be too much and may leave complete devastation behind.

We have always managed the zoo with financial prudence, and we know it is unlikely grants will be available to us or many other zoos, so we will continue to be extremely prudent but will ask you to be as helpful as you can. Perhaps renew your Zoo Pass if you are a passholder, or if you have a booking, instead of asking for a refund reschedule your visit, purchase an adoption or gift voucher for an Animal Experience, and if you can then please donate to our Emergency Operating Fund online.

Just before closing down a gentleman and his wife I bumped into at the bottom of the zoo came towards me and after the usual good morning he talked about the zoo but referred to it as ‘our zoo’ meaning his zoo, he then stopped and said ‘yes we know it is your zoo but we call it ours’.

Since taking over in 1983 this has always been my aim this is a zoo for the people, we aim to get people to feel good being at home as well as at Colchester Zoo. Those few words made me very proud and satisfied.

We hope to be back in December, full of hope and energy, but please stay in touch by following us on social media.

Dr DA Tropeano OBE

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