Zoos, Aquariums and Wildlife Sanctuaries: Reopening

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:52 pm on 11th June 2020.

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Photo of Chris Matheson Chris Matheson Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) 3:52 pm, 11th June 2020

Ah, yes, the story of Iggy and Flossie from the hon. and gallant Member for Beckenham and the contribution of the Cheshire Regiment, as was then. His reputation is very sound in Chester, and it is well known in this House. Mr Deputy Speaker, would the House mind if I did not recount the story of Iggy and Flossie? It is perhaps best left for the bar when it reopens, knowing him, as we all do.

The work of the zoo is not simply as a visitor attraction. The hon. Member for Romford has talked about that. Chester zoo was founded by George Mottershead as a zoo without bars, but it has become a world conservation centre. In particular, I am always proud to talk about the work that it is doing on sustainable palm oil. Chester zoo is itself leading on the campaign to take palm oil produced in mass plantations in south-east Asia out of the food production chain and the consumer products production chain, and instead to use palm oil produced in plantations that do not completely destroy the rainforest in those areas, thereby conserving the habitats of many magnificent creatures, such as orangutans.

Let us be clear: as soon as budgets start to dwindle—the hon. Member for Romford is right that Chester zoo is losing hundreds of thousands of pounds every month and will make a loss this year—those conservation programmes are the first to go. The work that is being led in the United Kingdom and is being undertaken to maintain habitats across the world will therefore be very badly damaged. It is absolutely essential, therefore, that zoos are able to continue to bring in the income, which is providing not just jobs and tourism revenue, but a real difference across the world in terms of ecology.

In paying tribute to the work of the zoo, I have to say that the zoo’s management team has been absolutely outstanding in ensuring that the zoo is ready to open, and that the public will be protected, and I thank it for that.