As the sun sets on a challenging 2020 the staff and keepers at Blackpool Zoo are reflecting on the positives and looking forward to a brighter 2021. 

The year started just like any other with the annual animal head count and planning for events, school visits and everything else for an action-packed 12 months. 

In January massive wild fires devastated Australia and the wildlife casualties were enormous, so the zoo launched a fundraising campaign to send money to the hardest hit areas. 

A raffle of 'money can’t buy' prizes as well as the proceeds of the Rainbow Landings Lorikeet feeding activities on Australia day raised more than £3500.

February marked the arrival of a beautiful Bactrian camel calf, who was named Ciara after the storm that was raging while her mum was giving birth to her.

As news of Covid-19 intensified in March, it soon became clear that the nation would be entering an unprecedented time and staff watched, along with the rest of the UK as the Prime Minister announced the first national lockdown.

Catering, office, education and customer service staff left the zoo with heavy hearts on furlough while keepers kept on keeping to take care of more than 1000 animals and a small team of management, maintenance, grounds and cleaning staff remained to plan for when the doors could open again.

Apart from the absence of visitors, life went on as normal for the animals. Keepers shared pictures of life in a closed zoo on social media for all to see and everyone was able to keep up to date with what their favourite animals had been getting up to.

Spring is birthing season, pandemic or not, and lots of cute newbies made their entrance into the world during lockdown.

First up, an adorable porcupette arrived on a sunny April morning and, as the weather warmed up the zoo’s youngest elephant, Esha, enjoyed daily showers and playtime. Yet, during the Easter weekend, when the zoo should be teeming with happy families celebrating the school holidays, the gates remained locked. 

The sun seemed to shine for the whole of May and while the trees and flowers were at their best, the zoo welcomed some young capybara to its group. The zoo is usually only closed on Christmas Day so seeing it empty during the lovely Spring weather was a first for keepers. 

June saw the arrival of another, not so little, bundle of joy – a baby giant anteater alongside the welcome news from a delighted keeping team that the elephant herd was fully integrated!

As the country slowly started to unlock, the news came that zoos could finally welcome people back - the staff then put the final details in place to make it Covid-19 Secure.

Visitors were required to follow social distancing guidelines, onsite signage and make regular use of the additional hand sanitation points.  A new Visitor Services Hub and Visitor Services Team was set up to help with queries and questions and there was enhanced and increased cleaning and disinfecting of all areas.

Toilets were open and manned by attendants to manage numbers within the facilities. Short podcasts replaced the suspended daily talks, feeds and displays. 

The summer that followed looked very different to years gone by, but people still enjoyed spending time at the zoo and catching up with their favourite animals. 

New babies including Red titi monkeys, rhea chicks, a sitatunga and the zoo’s first ever parent reared Caribbean flamingo all made their debuts during July and August and as summer faded to autumn people continued to flock to the zoo and enjoy the great outdoors.

October saw the one-year anniversary of Emmet the elephant’s arrival at Blackpool Zoo and as the school holidays once again approached staff devised two spooktacular ‘socially distanced’ trails that captured the imagination of people of all ages!

The ingenious idea infused the historic site’s past and present to produce a spine-tingling tale of a missing pilot. A plane, donated by Blackpool Airport, was the stunning centre piece. 

Sadly, as another national lockdown was announced the gates closed once again, with staff taking on the same stoic attitudes of keeping calm and carrying on.

When the zoo reopened again, all indoor animal houses were closed and cafés remained takeaway only to comply with the Tier 3 restrictions. 

However, visitors have put their wellies on, dug out their woollies, wrapped up warm and enjoyed plenty of fresh air as they explore the zoo.

With Christmas upon us, it remains business as usual for keepers as they work 365 days a year feeding, cleaning out and caring for more than 1000 residents. 

That includes giving them suitable festive treats including mash potato snowmen and Christmas trees for the primates, carrots and hay for the reindeer, donkeys and other herbivores and meaty treats for the carnivorous creatures.

Darren Webster, Director at Blackpool Zoo, said: “It has been an incredibly difficult year for people across the world and I am hugely proud of the entire team here at Blackpool Zoo.

“Their attitude throughout the pandemic has been exemplary and while it was sad not seeing visitors, they supported each other throughout the year.

“As 2020 draws to a close, we are feeling positive that 2021 will be different and that normality will start to return.

“In the meantime, we would all like to thank everyone that has visited us this year, it’s been great to welcome you back once again and we hope that you enjoy your time at the zoo in the coming weeks.”  




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