As with most of us in these uncertain times, life at the zoo has changed beyond all recognition. 

Normally packed with seasonal visitors, instead we are keeping busy getting the zoo Covid compliant, ready for when we open on Saturday, July 4.

We all know that, even in the worst of times, (you may remember the floods we’ve endured), a zoo can’t simply turn off the lights and close the doors. 

Essentially, we’re a vibrant, exotic, gated community, responsible for the safety and wellbeing of hundreds, and their hungry mouths.

So what’s it like here, day to day?  As a charity, we are funded by our ticket sales and generous donations. 

With our main source of income switched off, the hard decision had to be taken to temporarily furlough all staff bar three of us, for safety as well as financial reasons.

Keepers Grace, Neil, and myself are looking after the animals.  Rotating two on at a time, we can maintain strict distancing and hygiene measures. 

Jo and Dave are keeping the vegetation under control, and we have just started safely scheduling in some volunteers.

Having no visitor activities, like keeper talks, during the day means fewer of us can safely complete the daily routines of animal care, feeding, cleaning and enrichment activities; even the occasional caffeine top-up (for us!).

With no visitors to entertain the animals (you do know it’s that way round?), it’s been really important to keep them stimulated, so we’ve been giving them lots of attention, hiding food in mazes and puzzles, even dancing and playing peekaboo in front of their enclosures - you can’t have the luxury of embarrassment if you’re a zookeeper.

People’s kindness and generosity has been humbling.  We simply would not be here without our amazing supporters, so a huge thank you to everyone who backed our GoFundMe campaign and to Morrisons and Tesco, who have been donating leftover food. 

Importantly for us, we’ve continued our community links by hosting virtual Q&A sessions with Ripley School in Lancaster, which will form the basis of further educational work.

The biggest lesson of all will be seeing just how we come out of this pandemic and how we work to redress the balance of nature. I hope we can learn from it in time.