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Belfast Zoo manager says some animals are 'missing the interaction with visitors'

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Zookeeper Michelle feeds the elephants at Belfast Zoo yesterday

Zookeeper Michelle feeds the elephants at Belfast Zoo yesterday

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Zookeeper Pete applies sun cream to Honey the pig

Zookeeper Pete applies sun cream to Honey the pig

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

A chimp enjoys some fruit

A chimp enjoys some fruit

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

A young zebra plays

A young zebra plays

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Giraffes gather at feeding time

Giraffes gather at feeding time

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Zookeeper Michelle feeds the elephants at Belfast Zoo yesterday

Some of Belfast Zoo's most popular residents - such as its chimps and gorillas - are missing the company of human visitors, the attraction's manager has said.

The zoo remains closed to the public as the lockdown continues, leaving its inhabitants with only the company of staff.

Manager Alyn Cairns told the Belfast Telegraph that the gorillas, chimps and even the parrots are aware that it has gone a lot quieter.

"I do find when I'm up at the zoo that I'm getting much more reaction from the animals. So I do think some of the animals are missing that, especially the animals that are social themselves," he said.

"Parrots are quite a social animal and like that interaction from the public from afar as it were.

"But I have to say that I couldn't ask more from staff. Under really difficult circumstances for everybody, they have really risen to the challenge and welfare of the animals has been absolutely paramount to them."

Alyn stressed that one of the upsides has been that staff can spend more time with the animals.

"For example we've been giving our elephants more mud baths and we've been giving our gorillas and chimps ice lollies with fruit in them," he explained.

"We also been trying to make people aware that the zoo is continuing on with our online video clip campaign: #BringtheZooToYou."

One video shows staff harvesting honey from its beehive, which is then enjoyed by the zoo's sun bears.

Under different circumstances, the zoo would be welcoming around 40,000 visitors with the recent spell of sunny weather, Alyn revealed.

"Hopefully there will be an end to all of this and we will be able to reopen again. Hopefully a lot of people are waiting for that," he added.

Belfast Telegraph