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Petition to save Belfast Zoo signed by almost 2,000

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Belfast Zoo. Picture: Google Maps

Belfast Zoo. Picture: Google Maps

Belfast Zoo. Picture: Google Maps

A petition to save Belfast Zoo has gathered almost 2,000 signatures since it was started five days ago.

The petition directed at Belfast City Council comes after a Sinn Fein motion called for the transformation of the facility into a "world class" visitor attraction by 2025.

The number of people signing the petition has been growing steadily since the petition was started, with many sharing their reasons as to why the facility should remain.

Meanwhile, an opposing petition calling for the zoo to be closed has gathered 579 signatures on an animal rights protection platform.

Organisers said their fundamental belief is that there is no need for any animal to remain in captivity and that they belong in the wild.

Those supporting the petition to keep the Cave Hill site open called for investment while others advocated for the zoo's conservation efforts, saying it "does a lot to save endangered species".

Sinn Fein's motion put forward last week said some animals should be returned to their natural habitats in a "carefuly crafted phased approach".

This was rubbished by people who signed the petition, with one saying "to re-introduce these lovely animals to the wild is silly, they will not survive".

Another said: "The zoo is vital for conservation efforts across the globe, provides valuable work placements for students looking to go into the conservation field and provides excellent learning opportunities to communities and young people.

"Money needs to be put into the zoo by the council or sold onto someone who will put the money in to make it more accessible (personally think that a ski lift approach would be effective)," they wrote on the Change.org petition.

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Belfast Zoo (Photo by Paul McErlane for Belfast Telegraph)

Belfast Zoo (Photo by Paul McErlane for Belfast Telegraph)

"This would be a great opportunity to work with Queen's university academics and students to design stimulating enclosures both for the public and animals.

"Please don't turn Belfast zoo into a tacky tourist attraction," they pleaded.

At Monday's council meeting, Castle Councillor Conor Maskey hit out at what he described as "silly reactions" from other parties and the "media's approach" to the recent public debate.

As well as returning animals to their natural habitats and transforming the zoo into a visitor attraction, a conservation programme for indigenous animals and a commitment to retaining staff was also put forward in the motion.

Councillor Maskey referred to other parties portraying the motion as "about locking up the zoo and throwing away the key".

He said the approach was "far, far, far, from it".

He told the chamber: "This was never about closing the zoo, it was about properly investing in the site to ensure we are in keeping with a modern and ethical approach to the city and the animals, and doesn't burden the rate payer."

He added, however, in the light of the debate the party would be talking to the council about amending the motion before it is referred to the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee later this month.

DUP Councillor George Dorrian confirmed his party's opposition to the motion after meeting with trade union officials.

He said the party wishes to bring about a more sustainable model but that they do not wish to close the zoo.

Belfast Zoo said it would not be making any comment.

Belfast Telegraph