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Tayto Park’s animals ‘missing human interaction’

The Co Meath theme park is closed to the public.

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One of the twin ring tailed lemur pups clings to it’s mother’s back at Tayto Park (Brian Lawless/PA)

One of the twin ring tailed lemur pups clings to it’s mother’s back at Tayto Park (Brian Lawless/PA)

One of the twin ring tailed lemur pups clings to it’s mother’s back at Tayto Park (Brian Lawless/PA)

Some of the animals at Tayto Park are missing human visitors and interaction, the zoo’s manager has said.

The Co Meath theme park is closed to the public, and behind the gates, life for many of the animals has become quiet.

Park manager Lee Donohoe said that the primates, including monkeys and great apes, as well as marsupial animals are missing human interaction.

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A great grey owl takes flight in Tayto Park (Brian Lawless/PA)

A great grey owl takes flight in Tayto Park (Brian Lawless/PA)

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A great grey owl takes flight in Tayto Park (Brian Lawless/PA)

“Normally at this stage of the year we have a few thousand people walking around the grounds,” Mr Donohoe said.

“Some of the animals interact with the public, so there’s a stimulus there for them, but because we are closed for three months some of the animals are used to quiet periods.

“We have a few rare birds at the moment, including the Japanese Cranes, which are sitting on nests so some peace and quiet won’t do them any harm.

“I am definitely seeing more bird life in the park now. However, animals need as much stimulation as possible so they will get a kick out of it when it reopens to the public.”

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Khan the amur tiger (Brian Lawless/PA)

Khan the amur tiger (Brian Lawless/PA)

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Khan the amur tiger (Brian Lawless/PA)

The park, which closes for three months of the year, was ready to reopen around St Patrick’s Day. However, due to Covid-19 restrictions the park had to keep the gates shut.

The zoo is home to more than 300 individual animals and 80 different species and breeds, including American bison, tigers and mountain lions, as well as an open farm with small livestock.

The zoo already has disease preventative measures and Public Protective Equipment (PPE) procedures in place because it quarantines animals arriving from overseas.

“Most big zoos have a disease surveillance programme,” Mr Donohoe added.

“We put more measures in place to protect the staff like staggered lunch breaks and using multiple canteens and keeping staff apart by using separate vehicles.

“Social distancing is less of a challenge for us than those working elsewhere because we have 110 acres to work in.”

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Lee Donohoe, with Khan the tiger (Brian Lawless/PA)

Lee Donohoe, with Khan the tiger (Brian Lawless/PA)

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Lee Donohoe, with Khan the tiger (Brian Lawless/PA)

While many of the park’s staff work from home, the zookeeping team are working around the zoo’s four animal sections.

“Rather than having multiple people in one area, we have just designated one person spending the day doing fruit and vegetable preparation for the animals, and then we distribute it around the park to the staff that are working in the different sections,” he added.

“We have the face shields, PPE, gloves and sanitising gel around the place.”

Feeding the hungry zoo animals and providing bedding involves huge costs. However, Mr Donohoe said the park’s success over the last 10 years has lessened the financial pressure.

Looking ahead, he is unsure when the park can reopen to the public.

“We are looking at how we will implement all of the guidelines that we need to put in place including social distancing for queues,” Mr Donohoe added.

“We’re very fortunate to have a wide open space and we are geared up for high volumes of people.

“We have some great opportunities here to get back on the road again.”

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