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Belfast Zoo confident of accreditation after work to tackle concerns

By Cate McCurry

The new manager of Belfast Zoo has said past problems that dogged the facility and saw its membership of an international standards body suspended have been addressed.

The Belfast Telegraph revealed last year that the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) had concerns about the leadership of Belfast Zoo and how some of its animals are kept.

EAZA wrote to Belfast City Council last November informing it that the decision to accredit Belfast Zoo had been delayed in light of the issues.

More: Belfast Zoo manager Alyn Cairns: 'Who in their office environment can say they have a herd of giraffes or family of gorillas?'

In a letter dated October 1, Frank Rietkerk, chair of EAZA's Membership and Ethics Committee, said a "key concern" must be addressed before Belfast Zoo can receive accreditation.

It raised concerns over leadership of the zoo, questioned the level of aggression between the Andean bears, claimed the educational animals - including rabbits and reptiles - are not kept in acceptable conditions, and stated conditions are "terrible" in the old zoo building where animals in quarantine are kept.

Now, zoo manager Alyn Cairns said these issues have been addressed. "To start, the zoo asked for that inspection. One of the concerns was leadership and they have since appointed me as manager and that was the most major thing," he commented.

"There were minor issues and we have either solved those or are in the process of solving them because some of them involved the budget.

"Our zoo staff are doing what they always do and that's getting on with the job and looking after our animals.

"For us, we always have animal care and welfare at the forefront.

"We have to go by the law, and if we are told that a building needs rewired then we have to take the animals out to do that. They were in temporary accommodation which we have had to use."

Mr Cairns added that the zoo is currently going through the process of addressing all the issues raised in the report, and that they are "confident" it will be awarded the accreditation.

"We are in the process of going back to EAZA and then hopefully will award us the accreditation," he added.

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