I’ve noticed my fellow keepers are suddenly smiling a lot more.

Not just the warming spring weather, it’s also the reason we’ve all gone up a gear: last-minute preparations for opening again after the weekend.

Last year we became experts in safe, comfortably distanced visiting, so everything’s already in place, including mandatory pre-booked slots, separate entrance and exit, one-way walkways, and 100% masks for us and visitors (including children).

Our 5 large TV screens will display rolling video presentations, to prevent clustering together at keeper talks, and this ensures no-one misses out.

Sally, our Safety Salamander, is back on duty pointing out handwashing stations and fun distancing floor paw-prints.

In line with government guidelines, initially we can only open outside areas, hopefully just for the first couple of months.

We discussed remaining closed, but it’s clear families, children and our animals are all desperate for the benefits fresh air, stimulation, and safe interaction bring.

So we’ll be opening expanded outdoor attractions- including our fabulous huge new meerkat enclosure- and reducing April ticket prices by 50%, while our tropical halls have to remain closed and the café remains on a takeaway basis only.

We also couldn’t resist opening to introduce our new arrivals, like brightly-coloured African Spreo starlings, although I think Dozer, our newest hairy armadillo, and Cora, the ultra-elegant female dik-dik joining Dylan in the African Drylands paddock, will be vying for ‘new favourite’ status.

Several families have welcomed new arrivals during lockdown, including our dramatic black and yellow fire salamanders, our fledgling sparrows and behaviours hint other species are preparing to follow suit across spring and summer.

Lots of last year’s babies, like our meerkats and potoroo, are now all grown up and leaping about, although sometimes scampering back to mum.

Excitingly, we’re also now allowed to restart some short personal animal experiences: meet the lemurs, meerkats, monkeys, fossa and snow leopards.

Some are available for any age, some are (brave!) adults only.

All the details, along with how to book, are on our website. I’ve just got time to wash behind my ears and put my best wellies on.