No animals at region's zoos have shown Covid symptoms

Lion cubs at Africa Alive in Kessingland, near Lowestoft.

Lion cubs at Africa Alive in Kessingland, near Lowestoft. - Credit: Nick Butcher

Animals at two zoos in Norfolk and Suffolk have displayed no coronavirus symptoms to date.

Neither Africa Alive, in Kessingland, nor Banham Zoo, in Banham, have proactively tested animals due to the risks involved, but have introduced a number of additional safety measures to keep them safe, including a ban on hand feeding.

It comes as several gorillas at San Diego Zoo tested positive for coronavirus.

The Zoological Society of East Anglia decided to close both zoos in order to keep people safe from New Year's Eve.

The Zoological Society of East Anglia decided to close both zoos in order to keep people safe from New Year's Eve. - Credit: Megan Goodwin

Gary Batters, joint managing director of the Zoological Society of East Anglia, the charity which runs both parks, said: "We are very aware that coronaviruses can be transmitted in both directions between humans and animals.

"There have been a few recorded cases of Covid-19 being transmitted to zoo animals, particularly big cats, and mink have also been infected in intensive farming situations.

"As a result, it is no great surprise that gorillas, and other primates, would be susceptible to contract the virus from asymptomatic animal keepers, as appears to have happened in San Diego Zoo.

"At Africa Alive and Banham Zoo, we have had no animals displaying Covid symptoms and we have not felt the need to proactively test animals.

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"This is not easy to do without sedation and we must balance the benefit against the actual risk."

A number of safety measures have been introduced at both zoos, including no hand feeding of animals and staff wearing PPE.

Hand feeding animals has been banned at Banham Zoo and Africa Alive to keep animals safe from Covid. Pictured pre-Covid.

Hand feeding animals has been banned at Banham Zoo and Africa Alive to keep animals safe from Covid. Pictured pre-Covid. - Credit: Brittany Woodman

Mr Batters said: "Keepers are instructed to keep their distance from primates and big cats and wear face coverings if close contact is required in situations such as veterinary procedures or cleaning indoor enclosures.

"As I am sure everyone is aware, new information is coming through all the time with regards to Covid and we are continually reviewing our procedures and responding when needed."

Both parks have been closed since New Year's Eve amid concerns about rising case rates in Norfolk and Suffolk.

The ongoing closure has put further financial pressure on the zoos, which will not be receiving any income for the foreseeable future, but need a minimum of £25,000 per week to care for the animals.

The charity has asked for donations to its #WildAboutSurvival appeal, which has so far raised more than £54,800.

To donate, go to: www.justgiving.com/campaign/zsea

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