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Belfast Zoo needs more funds not the axe, say impressed visitors

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Kelly Martin visiting Belfast Zoo

Kelly Martin visiting Belfast Zoo

Kelly Martin visiting Belfast Zoo

Visitors to Belfast Zoo yesterday said they would be "gutted" if the facility was to be closed, as controversy rages over the future of the attraction.

While the zoo was understandably relatively quiet on a chilly Tuesday afternoon in February, there was still a steady stream of visitors making its way past the elephant, gorilla and zebra enclosures.

Housing more than 600 animals, the zoo has been in the public eye in the last few days after a Sinn Fein motion from Conor Maskey to transform it was heard at Monday's Belfast City Council meeting.

A petition to save the north Belfast attraction was launched last week in anticipation of the debate and has gathered almost 2,000 signatures from members of the public.

Paul Wilson (24) from Belfast said that he had been to the zoo before, but not since he used to make regular visits as a child.

"I used to come as a kid and I have always loved this place," he said.

"I heard and saw on the news it was supposed to be closing down, so I came here to help it out a bit.

"I saw it on the news a bit about petitions and politicians wanting to close it down.

"I would like to see it stay, I love the place.

"It is good to see a different array of animals and learning a lot more about animals that I would never really see.

"It is just good to spend a bit of time to see how the animals get on and see the different things that there are.

"All the animals are class. I think it is a great thing for Belfast to have, it can bring loads of tourism, which is a benefit.

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Andean bear Spook in his enclosure

Andean bear Spook in his enclosure

Andean bear Spook in his enclosure

"They should put more money into it, even though it isn't very busy today. My friends and family don't come up very often, but it is one of those things, it is a good day out."

Asked if he had a message for those proposing to close or change the zoo, Paul thought they should "wise up".

Anjanee Shields (27) from Donegal and Ciaran Dunn (32) from Derry were visiting Belfast yesterday and decided to take a trip to the zoo.

Anjanee explained that she had not been since she was a child and was impressed by it, in comparison to other zoos she had seen.

"I really love it. It is really good, really, really good," she said. "We started from the top of the zoo and we have seen the bears, the lions, elephants, giraffes, penguins - all the good animals. My favourite is the giraffe.

"There are good enclosures for them and they are really treated well, so I don't see why they should have to close it. I think it definitely is a good thing for Belfast.

"I would say it deserves more funding. A lot goes into it. I was saying how tidy it was. We have gone to other zoos and they were not as good."

Ciaran added that he thought the animals in Belfast had "enclosures a lot more spacious and open than other zoos we have visited" and remarked that the animals "at least had a safe environment here".

Katie Varga (30) is originally from Hungary but now lives in Belfast.

She was showing a tourist friend around the sites of the city and made sure the zoo was one of them.

"It is a good attraction and it has a really nice view, which is why I like coming here. It is quiet today but I am enjoying it," she said.

"I didn't hear that there was any discussion of them closing it. I would be very sorry if they did that. I think it should stay open.

"I think they should put more money into it."

Kelly Martin (28) from Belfast was with her family while enjoying a day off from work.

She was impressed with what was on show after not having visited in a number of years.

"I have been up to the zoo before but not for a very long time, maybe about five years ago. It has been really good today. It is nice because it is quiet," she said.

"We have seen everything at this point today, including the monkeys and farm animals.

"The lions are the best animal. My son Charlie loves the lions.

"I think they should probably put more money into it. Walking round, you see quite a lot closed, so maybe it would be a good idea if they could put a bit of money into it."

Rebecca McQuillan (25) from Magherafelt and Adam Osborne (29) from Portavogie both enjoyed the variety of animals and pleasant surroundings.

"I think it definitely is a good thing for Belfast to have.

"It brings more tourists in as well," Rebecca said.

"I would definitely not be happy if they closed the zoo."

Belfast Telegraph