Families flocked to Colchester Zoo as it reopened to the public as part of England’s latest easing of lockdown restrictions.
Linda English, 69, said she was “thrilled to bits” to visit the Essex attraction as an early birthday present for her five-year-old granddaughter Darcie Halls, who turns six later this month.
“I think people are glad to be out in the sunshine, glad to go somewhere different,” said Mrs English, from Hertfordshire.
“As long as you’re sensible and wear your masks where you’re supposed to that’s the main thing.”
Darcie, of Burwell, Cambridgeshire, said she was looking forward to seeing the lions.
Tuki Rounds, 40, from Croydon, admired the elephants with his two-year-old daughter Ruci.
“Like lots of kids she’s been in lockdown and lacking stimulus so it’s great for her to come and see some of the stuff in real life rather than on the telly,” he said.
Caroline Hale, 40, of Colchester, said it was “brilliant” to be back at the zoo with her three-year-old daughter Eowyn.
“We’ve been very excited about it,” she said.
“We came just before Christmas and then it’s just been checking the website waiting for it to reopen.”
Dr Dominique Tropeano, the zoo’s managing director, said it was a “great relief as well as a pleasure to welcome people again”.
He said the zoo “completely drained all our reserves” to survive and is now saving all the money it can in case of any further lockdowns.
“We made it up to now, only just, but now we need to save money so that if something did happen we can survive,” he said.
He went on: “We completely drained all our reserves but at the end of the day we’re still here, we’re still alive, still kicking and hopefully the future will prove that we will be strong enough to recover to move forward again.”
He said the zoo is limiting visitor numbers and estimated they will have around 30% to 40% fewer visitors than usual for the time of year.
“We’re not going to spend too much money outside of feeding the animals, outside of wages,” he said, adding that they would not embark on major projects for now “but at least we carry on, remain open”.