Zoo adopts breeding plan as key to future

LONDON ZOO has rejected a pounds 61m City-backed plan to rejuvenate its Regent's Park site and opted for an in-house scheme centred on animal breeding. The zoo's ruling council said yesterday that the ambitious City plan, led by David Laing, of the Laing construction family, threatened the zoo's 'sovereignty'.

Sir John Chapple, president of the Zoological Society of London, the zoo's parent body, said the council feared that pressure to meet dividend payments to investors under the scheme might compromise the conservation philosophy the zoo wants to pursue. Sir John said: 'Zoos have no right to exist in the late 20th century unless they can show they are good for animals.'

Dr Jo Gipps, the zoo's chief executive, put together the in-house plan, which will cost about pounds 17m over about 10 years. Dr Gipps was not able to explain the 'detail' of the plan - which he said should be ready by January of next year.

But Sir John is confident the financial future of the zoo is secure. Two private benefactors, not yet named, have promised substantial sums of money. Both offers were dependent on the zoo opting for the in-house plan. One is thought to cover the pounds 1m costs of developing the children's zoo.

The zoo also has a pounds 1m gift from the Emir of Kuwait and about pounds 300,000 raised in last year's Save Our Zoo campaign.

Development at the zoo will proceed on an ad-hoc basis as sponsors come forward. The idea is that industrial, institutional and private investors should support individual capital projects and set aside money for running costs - often neglected in the past.

The zoo will focus on important breeding groups of animals, such as Asian lions, Sumatran tigers and lowland gorillas which are endangered in the wild.

David Laing said yesterday he was disappointed his plan was turned down and that he would pursue with renewed vigour the option of building a national aquarium, ecology centre and film theatre elsewhere in London.

Mr Laing did not rule out future involvement between the consortium and the zoo. He is thought to have spent about pounds 300,000 in drawing up his proposals.

Colin Tudge, who became a council member in the recent 'coup' against factions of management at the zoo, said: 'The crucial thing is that the zoo has defined what it is all about. We are going to appeal to people's intelligence rather than tell them they should come along and buy a rubber snake or whatever.'

'We are on the verge of showing we can pay our way and if that happens people are going to want to put money into the zoo.'

Mr Tudge, a linchpin in securing the zoo's future, was instrumental in shaping the public face of Chester Zoo, often held up as a role model for modern zoos.

Mr Tudge hopes to restore the listed, but dilapidated Mappin Terraces as homes for one or two species of bears. Estimates of the cost of restoring these stand at about pounds 13m. He also aims to set up a 'Friends of the Zoo' scheme, with a target of several hundred thousand subscribers, which could bring in several million pounds.

The council hopes yesterday's announcement will mark the end of several years of financial tightrope walking at the zoo. This reached crisis point in 1991, when the Government said it would not add to its pounds 10m once-and-for-all payment of 1988. All summer the zoo has lurched towards closure, planned for the end of September.

But the closure threat helped increase the numbers of visitors and the zoo has made more than 90 staff redundant and taken 'a severe disciplinary approach' to controlling costs.

Leading article, page 20

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Class 2 Drivers

£31700 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This specialist wholesaler owned and man...

Recruitment Genius: Laser and Router Operative

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Laser and Router Operative is...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician - 1st Line

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They have been providing local ...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Executive / Trainee Managers

£6000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for smart, orga...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones