Edinburgh Zoo and the Highland Wildlife Park are calling on the Scottish Government to allow them to reopen by early July, as they warned their future is at risk in lockdown.
Zoos and safari parks in England can reopen on Monday, but Scottish attractions have been told the earliest they can welcome visitors again is July 15.
The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) had hoped to open Edinburgh Zoo and the Highland Wildlife Park near Aviemore by the end of June with increased safety measures in place, but it said the Scottish Government has rejected its plans.
The charity has been spending around £700,000 a month on upkeep and food for its animals despite the parks being closed, and has had to borrow £5m due to the loss of visitor income.
Chief executive David Field said: “We welcome the Scottish Government’s efforts to reopen the tourism sector in Scotland because we desperately need our parks to open again.
“While we understand it is vital for lockdown measures to be eased gradually, we had hoped to open by the end of June as part of phase two, with similar safety measures to protect staff and visitors as the zoos and safari parks which will reopen in England over the next few days.
“We also expected to open before places like hotels, pubs and restaurants because our parks are ideal spaces for people and families to enjoy nature in safe outdoor environments.
“Delaying the reopening of Edinburgh Zoo and Highland Wildlife Park for at least five weeks means we will miss the start of the summer and lose £500,000.
“We have had to borrow £5m overall due to the loss of our visitor income and every day we remain closed increases the risk that we will not be able to continue our wildlife conservation work.
“Zoos and safari parks are perfect places for people to visit as society gradually starts to reopen and we will continue to discuss these community benefits with the Scottish Government in the hope that we can open for the start of the summer.
“Reopening by the start of July will also help our charity recover because right now we are an endangered species in zoological terms.”
The wildlife conservation charity has written to the Scottish Government to suggest practical ways to reopen both parks by the start of July.
Edinburgh Liberal Democrat politicians Alex Cole-Hamilton and Christine Jardine have launched a petition calling on the Scottish Government to allow the zoo to reopen, which has now been signed by 3800 people.
The Scottish Government has been asked for comment.