Colchester Zoo's boss has warned passholders who book tickets and don't show could be given a one month visiting ban.

When the zoo reopened last week it introduced booking and staggered arrivals to cope with social distancing requirements.

But managing director Dr Doninique Tropeano said he had been forced to write to all zoo passholders after hundreds booked slots and did not show.

On one day alone 500 passholders who booked did not show up.

Dr Tropeano said this left others unable to visit the attraction.

In his letter he said: "It is with great sadness but also with a degree of annoyance I am forced to write to all zoo passholders for a matter which is extremely important to the survival of Colchester Zoo.

"This matter relates to a large number of zoo passholders booking a time slot for a day visit but then not turning up, therefore not using the slot they have booked and depriving others the opportunity to make a visit.

"The reason for having to highlight the serious effect of this is because unfortunately we are not talking in dozens but we are talking of hundreds and hundreds of zoo passholders making bookings which they are not fulfilling.

"We had anticipated this would happen, hence the reason why when we opened the booking system for reopening we only gave a three day time allocation for passholders to make bookings.

"After receiving so many negative, so many unwarranted and threatening messages from passholders, in a moment of weakness and because of the workload we are experiencing we gave in to passholders and extended their booking time period.

"Of course if you have purchased a zoo pass you are entitled to come to the zoo every day if you so wish, but it should be understood that these are exceptional circumstances, beyond anyone's wish or control, and all of us have to adapt and be grateful that we are fit and healthy so a visit to the zoo is a great experience and we are delighted to be of service but to book and not turn up is detrimental to Colchester Zoo."

Halstead Gazette:

Dr Tropeano said as only a limited number of people are allowed on site those who did not show were depriving the zoo of vital income.

He said the attraction needs to welcome around 100,000 paying visitors in July and 130,000 in August to ensure they have a fighting chance.

Since reopening they have been averaging 1,200 paying visitors most days.

Dr Tropeano added: "I’m sure you will feel my frustration and perhaps even my anger but the future of many of my staff is in the balance, so is the future of the zoo.

"I sincerely hope those zoo passholders guilty of over booking feel the pain we feel.

"On the other hand, we have had so many people, including zoo passholders, who have been so kind, so generous, so understanding and grateful to see the zoo doors opened again that words fail me to express what I feel from the bottom of my heart.

"This situation of zoo passholders booking and not visiting has become so detrimental to Colchester Zoo – we had one day where 500 zoo passholders who had booked and expected to visit simply just did not turn up.

Halstead Gazette:

"I hope that this will explain the extent to which the system is being misused and how unfair it is on so many who are desperately wanting to visit and support the zoo.

"I am afraid that we will now have to monitor and look for zoo passholders who book a visit but do not turn up and will not hesitate to suspend, for one month, their opportunity to visit and giving others the chance to.

"I am terribly sorry and terribly frustrated that at a time when I should begin to see light at the end of the tunnel, instead I have a taste of feeling let down.

"So please only book a visit if you intend to visit the zoo, please do not book multiple visits.

"If you care, please think of your neighbours, think of the people you are depriving but also think of the future survival of the zoo."