Zookeepers Self-Isolate In UK Wildlife Park For 3 Months To Take Care Of Animals

These are challenging times for all of us. Yet, for the sake of all of us, we need to follow the guidelines issued by governments.

During the self-isolation period, many of us remained at home, and others went to their summer or garden houses. But have you considered self-isolating in the workplace?

Because several zookeepers have!

Employees at the Paradise Park zoo decided to adopt a different approach to self-isolation

Paradise Park, a wildlife sanctuary in Hayle, Cornwall, UK, and home to the World Parrot Trust and Operation Chough, stated that it will be temporarily closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

They explained that their zookeeping staff must be safe so that their animals can continue receiving high-quality care.

At this point, four of the employees, Izzy Wheatley, Sarah-Jane Jelbert, Emily Foden and Layla Richardson, decided to volunteer and self-isolate in the park!

The park wrote on their Facebook page that  “they will be supported by other keepers on a daily basis, observing all the relevant guidelines” during the 12-week self-isolation period.

Alison Hales, Director of Paradise Park, stated:

 “All our keepers are really dedicated to the animals, but some also have vulnerable family members at home. When they heard the advice about self-isolating to combat the coronavirus, they had to make a decision about whether to stay away from work and isolate with their families. But then they suggested that they could come and stay in the house at Paradise Park to be there for the birds every day without risking the health of their families.”

Four of the zookeepers self-isolated in the wildlife sanctuary’s onsite house

The four zookeepers made this decision for two reasons- not to put at risk their vulnerable relatives at home, and to ensure someone will take care of the animals in case all other zookeepers are unable to go to work.

Ms. Wheatley explained that she video- messages her family, and added that “we’ve all been here for each other when it’s got tough”. Therefore, she added that if all other zookeepers have to self-isolate, the four of them “ could keep it running as best as we could.”

The zoo is the home of around 1,200 tropical birds and mammals, like red squirrels, red pandas, harvest mice, Asian otters, and the Fun Farm animals.

Alison explained that they are trying their best for the animals not to notice that there are no visitors at the zoo. Yet, she added that there are numerous different parrots at the zoo, and “the friendliest of these are wondering where everyone is’.

They primarily did it as a precaution, to ensure that there are at least 4 employees on duty to take care of the animals

They keep up their daily routine, feed, clean, and look after more than 1,200 animals

The four zookeepers continue training the birds that participate in the free-flying displays during the summer, like eagles, hawks, and vultures.

They also take care of the Humboldt penguins as well, and from Easter onwards, they will start with Photocalls, when they choose a handful of visitors to help with feeding the penguins, to pet them, and to take photos.

Wheatley explained:

 “We are being supported by other keepers who are coming in at different times of the day so they can keep separate, and obviously we are keeping our distance from them. This is being achieved by changed rotas and splitting up areas of the Park to ensure we are all working in different areas.”

Alison adds that these measures have their advantages too, like observing the animals in peace and quiet, chatting with some of them, and the best part- “ waking up to a tropical dawn chorus in deepest Cornwall!”

Until the end of the 12-week isolation, many of their coworkers will rotate to support the self-isolating zookeepers

Paradise Park remains devoted to its visitors as well. The zoo regularly updates its media pages and runs live webcams.

Alison says that due to the pandemic movement restrictions, they have lost much of the income, so funds remain the next challenge:

 “All our income comes from visitors and we have only been closed on Christmas Day and a few days due to snow in our 46 years. Winter is our quietest time of year, so we really look forward to the Easter holidays, we put on extra events and get lots of visitors. We have been very self-sufficient over all these years, many people are regular visitors and we have achieved a lot of really good conservation work for endangered species. Our bank is being helpful and has already extended our overdraft but this is the first time we have ever done a fund-raiser.

The unknown is very worrying. Spring is usually a hopeful time where we get an influx of visitors and we can breathe a sigh of relief. It is now as if the rug has been pulled. I’m sure we will be OK. We are relying on the birds to show us the way. We will come out the other end.”

To address the issue, Hales and a colleague, Michelle Turton, have launched a GoFundMe campaign to cover their essential expenses, explaining that “every gift really will make a difference in helping to ensure the high standard of care we pride ourselves on continues every day.”

The zoo is closed, but the social media are regularly updated with pictures and live webcams

Paradise Park shared some unique moments of the daily life at the zoo