MOST of us have great memories of a family day out to the zoo.

But for a dramatic U-turn (or is it a zoo-turn?) those happy times among the elephants, monkeys and reptiles could have been a thing of the past.

Many zoos were on the brink of going under until the government changed its mind and said they can reopen from Monday after all after originally saying they had to stay closed.

While other workplaces shut down due to the pandemic, animals still needed to be cared for. And with that, the massive overheads in heating, food, water and wages for the keepers who remained at work to look after them, still needed to be found despite zero money coming in.

Just 24 hours before the U-turn, South Lakes Safari Zoo in Dalton spoke out about the unfairness that they had to stay shut, when other outdoor spaces like gardens and parks, and indoor shops were beginning to reopen.

But now outdoor attractions can reopen as long as they follow social distancing rules.

The lifeline will be welcomed by cash-strapped zoos. But some have been caught on the hop by the surprise change of mind and are not ready to reopen because safety measures are not yet in place.

The way the reopening has been handled will add fuel to criticism of what has seemed, at times, a confusing approach to easing us out of lockdown.