Coronavirus Zoo Animals Fund

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons on 22nd April 2021.

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Photo of Chris Matheson Chris Matheson Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the coronavirus zoo animals fund.

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The zoo animals fund has supported a wide variety of zoos throughout the pandemic—56 to date—and it continues to do so. It has helped to ensure the continued welfare of zoo animals and to prevent unnecessary euthanasia. We are really pleased that zoos of all sizes and types have been able to secure funding.

Photo of Chris Matheson Chris Matheson Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

The problem is that the £100 million announcement was more froth than substance, with only £5 million or £6 million of it being spent and not returned to the Treasury. Will Ministers now agree to extend the zoos fund to the important conservation, educational and scientific work that is the bedrock of so much of what our zoos contribute to the global situation?

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I do not accept that. This is a real fund, which is being used on the ground to help zoos get through the pandemic. I am very pleased, as I know the hon. Gentleman is, that Chester zoo is now open and that baby Albert the giraffe is open to view. We have extended the fund, for example, to include repairs and maintenance. We continue to work on the fund, but I politely suggest that other Government and UK funds are available to help with the important conservation work done by zoos, such as the Darwin initiative and the green recovery challenge fund. I encourage the hon. Gentleman to work with Chester zoo to look at whether those would be suitable.