For weeks now I have been in almost daily contact with Dominic Jermey the Director General of the Zoological Society of London which owns Whipsnade Zoo and with the Government to try to get Whipsnade reopened and to make sure that the ZSL remains capable of continuing its outstanding global conservation work and higher education research work, both of which have never been more necessary.
ZSL is so much more than London and Whipsnade zoos. The work it did on the Dasgupta Review played an important role in getting COP26 to the United Kingdom. ZSL has helped the Treasury understand the value of nature to the economy and regularly does work for the Department for International Development. It’s research work is looking at how viruses cross the species barrier to prevent the spread of any future coronaviruses. ZSL has reintroduced tigers to Nepal, Kenya and Indonesia and rhinos to Nepal and Kenya as well. It has stopped poaching in Cameroon. It’s helped protect coral in the Philippines, angelsharks off the coast of Wales and seals and eels in the Thames.
When people ask me where I am the Member of Parliament for I often say Whipsnade Zoo because it is the best known part of my constituency. It is unthinkable to me that we could lose Whipsnade and its global conservation and research work must continue as well.
We are now in the last chance saloon for Whipsnade. Unless there is a cash injection urgently we could lose both of the zoos and all the vital work they do around the world. At a time when we are losing species faster than we have ever done and we need to value nature more than ever this would be an unmitigated disaster.
Whipsnade urgently needs cash in the form of grants and donations. I continue to lobby the Government on this issue and have today rejoined Whipsnade as a member even though it is currently closed. I will be attending the debate in Parliament next Thursday and will continue to talk to Ministers about the urgency of the situation. It is not right that National Trust and other gardens are now open, welcome though that is, while zoos remain closed. Whipsnade is on a 600 acre site and is therefore an ideal location to fully respect all social distancing requirements.