No rest for Banham Zoo keepers at Christmas

The average person will consume 7,000 calories of turkey, trimmings, mince pies and pudding tomorrow.

But one Norfolk address will be dishing out heaps of meat and fish and piles of fruit and vegetables for what will be a normal day for its more than 1,000 residents.

Whilst many of us will be unwrapping presents, tucking into a turkey dinner, and tuning into the Queen's speech, half a dozen keepers at Banham Zoo have volunteered/pulled the short straw to feed and care for the animals.

The south Norfolk tourist attraction may be closed to visitors on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, but it does not mean that all the staff can stay at home.

For the keepers at the zoo, the mammals, primates, birds, reptiles, and farm animals still need to be cleaned out, fed and watered.

Mike Woolham, animal manager at Banham Zoo, said the weekend represented normal working hours for six members of staff, who will be starting at 8am and finishing at 4pm. On an average day, the zoo has 10 keepers on duty.

'We do scale it down a little. Because we do not have the public in, there is a little less work to do like the windows do not need to be cleaned.

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'Some of the animals here require two to three feeds a day and have very carefully prepared diets. They require the same care on Christmas Day and Boxing Day as any other days of the year. It is never a problem with the keepers. They are a fabulous bunch and it is never a problem and no one complains,' he said.

Mr Woolham said the animals munch through 44lbs (20kg) of meat, the penguins and fur seals get through 48lbs (22kg) of fish, and the vegetarians eat 22lbs (10kg) of bananas, 33lbs (15kg) of apples, 44lbs (20kg) of carrots, 70lbs (32kg) of cabbage and 26lbs (12kg) of lettuce every day.

And some of the zoo's residents require extra attention like Hamish the Sambirano Lemur, who was rejected by his mother when he was born four months ago, and needs three bottle feeds a day.

Sarah Goodchild, lead keeper, who will be working tomorrow and Sunday, said there was the occasional birth at the zoo on Christmas Day.

'There is usually a quite good atmosphere and the keepers have been known to have a Christmas singsong. It is social and people pull together to get the job done. It is a normal day for the animals except there are no people peering through the windows,' she said.