18 December 2018

Lawrence Jones MBE at Chester Zoo's Islands exhibit

At Chester Zoo’s Islands exhibit earlier in the year.

I was saddened to read of the fire at Chester Zoo this weekend. The zoo is an extraordinary bastion of conservation for thousands of species across the globe, so hearing that animals were lost in the fire hit home all that bit harder.

Gone are the days when zoos were simply a spectacle for humans to goggle at other species. Now, the majority of zoos that I know centre on conversation, breeding programmes and helping animals all over the world. I’m yet to meet an organisation more committed to this than Chester Zoo.

Testament to the work that they do, a JustGiving page set up after the fire had raised £127,000 from more than 7,000 donations as of yesterday. The money is going toward conservation rather than to repair the damage.

The fire broke out in the zoo’s Monsoon Forest – the UK’s largest zoological building. Whilst the team did an incredible job of getting endangered and critically endangered species to safety – including Sumatran orangutans and rhinoceros hornbills – there were some species that died in the incident, all of which were part of conservation breeding programmes.

Here to help

I remember a few years ago, just how exciting it was as this new building launched. Our team were one of the first to hire out the Islands area of the zoo. We invited the whole team, friends and family, to enjoy a day at the zoo, eat and drink in the Islands’ Manado Street Kitchen. They also stayed for an after-hours tour with the keepers. It’s an experience we repeated earlier this year and I am sure that won’t be the last time we enjoy the zoo experience with our team mates.

I am incredibly proud that Chester Zoo is one of our clients at UKFast. We’ve worked together for many years now. We supported them through the launch of the huge TV programmes including Our Zoo in BBC One and Secret Life of the Zoo in Channel 4.

We’ve shared some wonderful memories there. It’s hard to imagine the pain and heartache the whole team at the zoo are feeling right now. However, I do know that everyone I have encountered there is an extraordinary character. These people are naturally supportive and the animals are a part of the greater zoo family. I have no doubt that the team is already working out how to move forward and create a brighter future for the species that were lost and those that have been temporarily rehomed elsewhere on the site.

I can’t wait to hear all about their exciting plans. Until then though, I send my best to the whole team there during the long days of the aftermath. We’re here to help if you need us.

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