CHESTER ZOO is looking to reopen its doors to the public soon – but there will be significant changes planned to ensure social distancing.

The zoo normally welcomes over two million visitors a year, but was forced to close to the public as part of the coronavirus lockdown in March.

Since then, only limited numbers of staff have been at the attraction, looking after the animals and maintaining the site.

But as the lockdown is gradually being eased by the Government, the zoo is taking big steps to ensure it is ready to reopen to the public as soon as it's safe to do so, while still ensuring visitors can observe social distancing guidelines.

One of the biggest changes will be a drastic reduction in the number of visitors permitted into the zoo per day, with all ticket sales going online. People will not be allowed access by simply turning up on the day.

Restaurants and cafes, which closed a few days before the zoo shut its gates, will remain closed, along with all indoor animal habitats such as the Tropical Realm and the Fruit Bat Forest.

The Leader:

Chester Zoo is planning to reopen soon, but with significant changes

Jamie Christon, Chester Zoo’s chief operating officer, explained the changes the zoo was making in preparation for the reopening date, which as yet is still to be confirmed.

He said: "Chester Zoo remains closed but we hope to reopen our gates again soon.

"When exactly that will be, we don’t yet know, but we’re busy making a whole host of changes to ensure that when the times comes, and when the Government makes it possible for us to do so, we’ll be ready to welcome visitors back safely.

"When we do reopen, it’ll be at the right time.

"The first thing people will notice is that things look a little different. That’s because our teams have been working hard to install an array of new, physical safety measures.

The Leader:

"These include self-scanning ticket lanes, floor markings to clearly indicate two metre distances, multiple hand sanitisation points, a huge amount of signage and protective screens in all of our key locations and service areas.

"The zoo is, of course, a huge 128-acre site but still, you’ll also notice fewer people than before.

"We’re going to be heavily limiting visitor numbers each day and every single visitor, and member, must book online. A new area of our website has been specially built to facilitate this.

"There are a raft of other things happening too. All our indoor animal habitats will remain closed, as will our restaurants and cafes, but our outdoor food and drink kiosks will be open and we’ve added more outdoor picnic areas, while lots of fully trained staff will be dotted around to ensure people keep well apart.

"Hard surfaces, such as touchscreen computers and cash machines will be covered and out of use, and viewing windows will have one-metre standoff markings around them, again to prevent touching.

The Leader:

Chester Zoo is planning to reopen soon, but with significant changes

"Stringent deep cleaning will also be ongoing.

"There’s no hiding from the fact that these times are tough for us. Visitor revenue is absolutely critical; it makes up about 97 per cent of our income.

"And unlike many other charities and organisations which are able to limit their outgoings, the zoo still has incredibly high costs to ensure that each and every one of the 35,000 animals here receives the exact same level of care and attention they are accustomed to.

"It costs £465K per month just to look after all of the animals and plants – that covers feed, bedding, the wages of the animal care staff, heating animal houses and much more besides.

"Being unable to open and welcome any guests at all for so long now means we’ve been having to do this with little coming in.

"We have though said many times throughout this crisis that we will beat this, we will bounce back and we won’t ever stop our fight to prevent extinction.

The Leader:

"As ever, we are incredibly grateful to all of our staff, our members, our visitors and our vast support network for helping to protect our fantastic organisation through this. Thank you. Thank you so, so much.

"Will a trip to Chester Zoo be the same as before? No. Will it still have that Chester Zoo magic? You bet it will!

"Stay safe and hopefully we’ll see you soon."

Hundreds of people have donated to Chester Zoo's Justgiving page to help it meet running costs throughout the lockdown. People can still donate at