More than £1m has been raised in 24 hours for one of the UK’s largest zoos after it said it was “at risk of extinction” due to the lockdown.
Chester Zoo, which has been closed to visitors since 21 March, said it had been told by the government to prepare to stay shut “indefinitely”.
A crowdfunding page was set up on Wednesday after the zoo’s boss said it could face a year-end debt of £24m.
The zoo said the cash was a “massive boost” during its “biggest crisis”.
Chief operating officer Jamie Christon said the zoo costs more than £1.6m a month to run and gets 97% of its income from visitors, .
“Not being able to open, despite being a huge outdoor site with all the necessary safety measures in place, is having a devastating impact on the future survival of this much-loved charity zoo,” Mr Christon said.
He said it faced debt in excess of £24m by the end of the year which would “financially cripple us”.
A number of MPs said they have written to George Eustice, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to ask for the zoo to be able to reopen as soon as possible.
Edward Timpson, Conservative MP for Eddisbury, said the attraction was a “much-loved local asset”.
Cheshire Labour MPs Chris Matheson, Justin Madders and Mike Amesbury wrote a joint letter to Mr Eustice, saying they had been “inundated” with emails from constituents upset about the risk of losing the zoo.
A spokesman for Defra said: “We understand the challenges faced by zoos during these unprecedented times but it’s vital that we do not move too quickly in reopening to ensure public health is protected.
“We have provided a £14m support fund to ensure zoos are able to continue to care for their animals.”