Talking loudly to myself while marching up and down in front of an enclosure of curious meerkat is probably one of my more questionable activities this wholly strange year.

But rather than me finally losing all grip on reality, it’s actually a positive step towards the zoo reopening.

Throughout lockdown, we have at least had the luxury of time and space to design and test new ways to ensure safe, comfortable visiting; including pre-booked slots, a separate entrance and exit, and one-way walkways.

We can’t risk clustering people together for keeper talks, so we’ve installed ten large TV screens, which will play rolling video presentations.  This means no-one need miss out (and I can do my best David Attenborough impression!).

Zoos have always been scrupulous about hygiene.  Our new mascot, Sally the Safety Salamander, will be pointing out increased handwashing stations and easy distancing paw-prints on the floor, to make these important guidelines as clear and fun as possible.

So why the marching and talking to myself?  Visitors are very important to lots of our animals - we entertain them at least as much as they entertain us.

It’s been vital to keep them engaged and interested by interacting with them, changing the layout of their enclosures and creating puzzles with food and toys.  Tank the armadillo has even been charging around a new assault course.

But the zoo has been eerily quiet in volume as well so as we gear up to reopening on Saturday, we need to get our residents reacquainted and relaxed about the bustle, movement and noise of visitors,  hence my apparently ridiculous trotting up and down, declaiming loud nonsense.

Our marmosets and emperor tamarins love human interaction so much we deliberately designed their new enclosure to overlook our bustling café. 

As we’ll be initially limited to takeaways we’ll be encouraging visitors to take their drinks round to the monkeys so neither side will miss out on making faces at each other.

Reopening will bring challenges but we’re ready and eager and so, I can tell, are our monkeys, meerkats, mice, marmosets and many more.