IT'S that hairy time of year again, with shivering keepers jealous of our animals snug in their home-grown thick winter coats.

However, myself, and several visitors I expect, will be getting magnificently hirsute as well, for ‘Movember.'

A great initiative raising funds and awareness for men’s mental health, since 2004, obviously the last couple of years have put people under strain like never before.

Battling through our own uncertain times at the zoo, if it were not for the support of our amazing friends, families, zoo fans, food donations, and ‘Go Fund Me’ page; we might not be here, either- thank you all, once again!

It’s always more than doubly positive to give something back, which we did by partnering with Ripley School for remote lessons.

We threw ourselves into building new enclosures and resolutely planning for a positive future; all things which kept our minds and bodies active, great for mental health.

We could also see this in visitor’s faces when they were able to come back through the gates; the relief and relaxation as people were able to reconnect with family, friends, nature, and take some breaths in the fresh air.

I have been a stalwart of Movember for many years- in fact, I think my developing moustache has become a regular November visitor attraction in his own right.

After witnessing a close friend suffering a breakdown, I became very aware of how hard it is for some people, especially teenage boys, to talk about their feelings.

This impacts so many relationships, and contributes to the shocking statistic that the biggest cause of death in men under 45 is suicide.

Our Go Fund Me page will help raise funds and awareness for Movember’s male mental and physical health causes, and also some of my biggest ‘tache rivals in the zoo, our miniature monkeys and marmosets, whose wild cousins are facing their own very serious threats.

We know “it’s good to chat” at the zoo, and I’m always up for a challenge, but I reckon, with the best will in the world, our magnificently moustachioed emperor tamarin monkeys will beat anyone else’s efforts paws-down.