Special report: How life is carrying on in our zoos during coronavirus
PUBLISHED: 07:49 01 April 2020 | UPDATED: 09:58 01 April 2020
Animals in the county’s zoos have been enjoying a bit of piece of quiet as the parks shut the doors to the public.
Norfolk is home to some of the world’s most exotic animals with giraffes, tigers and monkeys cared for by dedicated staff.
Although the doors have closed to the public because of coronavirus they are still working hard to keep the animals safe, fed and health.
Africa Alive and Banham Zoo
Banham Zoo has the largest zoological collection in Norfolk with more than 2,000 animals while its sister location, Africa Alive, near Lowestoft, was named as best large visitor attraction at last year’s Norfolk and Suffolk Tourism Awards.
Gary Batters, director of zoos at Banham Zoo and Africa Alive!, said: “At the moment we have a team of 14 at Africa Alive! and 12 at Banham they have been split into two teams on site so we minimise the chances of coronavirus wiping out whole teams in one go.
“Then we have another team who aren’t working but are there as a back-up. The teams are a mix of experience so we don’t have all our experienced staff working and then all go ill.
“The day-to-day work is continuing at a very high standard of animal well-fair. Admittedly they are very pushed and working hard but there are sometimes we don’t have to present everything to the same standard that we would if open to the public.
“We don’t have to spend time cleaning windows which we would do so the public have good visibility, it’s more focused on the caring of the animals, feeding, cleaning, and veterinary care.
“The animals are carrying on with their daily routine with staff trying hard to get the work done.”
Zoo keepers are not classed as essential workers, but Mr Batters said there is still a duty of care to the animals.
“Whilst their work is nowhere near as important as those in the NHS we do have a duty of care for our animals,” he said.
“The main advantage would be the access to childcare that it would give for our team members with children.”
The Cromer zoo had been asked for donations during the start of the coronavirus outbreak to stop food going into landfills which could feed the animals.
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But after a massive out pouring Amazona Zoo has been able to continue caring for its exotic animals.
Zoo manager Imogen White lives on the park.
She said: “At the moment all my staff are fit and well and we continue to care for the animals in just the same way as if we were open.
“The animals were all loving the sunshine last week but they know no different, it’s just a bit quieter for them.
“The number of donations have been amazing. Most of it was donated from businesses that have had to close so it would have ended up going to waste which would have been such a shame, so it’s great as we can put it to good use here. We have been overwhelmed with donations of fruit and vegetables, which has been wonderful.”
Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens
With a collection of some of the world’s largest cats the wildlife centre, near Great Yarmouth, has set-up a donations page to help feed them and keep the vast collection of reptiles warm.
Director Scott Bird has been at the hall for more than 22 years.
He said: “All the animals are fine and coping well.
“They have been getting the same level of care and looking after at any other time. They are all enjoying a bit of peace and quiet.
“We have a team of five looking after the animals but it has been cut down as unfortunately some of the team have been furloughed.
“We have snow leopards, tigers, crocodiles and alligators, clearly for all of them we still have to heat the buildings for them including the reptiles and clearly there is a cost.
“There’s a donation button on the web page - at the end of the day we are all in this, in strange and uncertain times. That’s both financially and personally, I don’t think there isn’t anyone who has not been affected across the country.
“Any donation is gratefully received and we will use them to ensure the high standard of well fair for the animals that we always do.”
Zoos are in need of support from animals lovers across the county.
For more information on donating go to www.banhamzoo.co.uk/visit-the-zoo/we-need-your-help
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