While many people are currently self-isolating in the comfort of their own homes, a group of zookeepers in the UK have temporarily moved into their place of work. Izzy, Emily, Layla, and Sarah-Jane are keepers at Paradise Park, a wildlife sanctuary in Hayle, Cornwall. The park closed on March 21 due to COVID-19, but the 4 noble staff members volunteered to stay in the sanctuary's onsite house for 12 weeks in order to continue to care for the resident animals.
“I had been thinking about how to handle the situation we all find ourselves in regarding isolating and social distancing, as I have a big family including an elder member who has gone into 12 weeks isolation,” keeper Izzy Wheatley explains. “At the same time, the Directors were having the same thoughts about using the house that is onsite and which became free as the Cornish Chough conservation meeting had just been canceled. Myself and three other keepers Sarah-Jane Jelbart, Layla Richardson and Emily Foden then moved into the onsite house.”
Paradise Park is currently home to just under 1,200 individual birds and mammals, from a flock of flamingos to adorable red pandas. The self-isolating zookeepers are currently sharing vital responsibilities such as feeding, cleaning, giving medications, creating activities, and carrying out important maintenance. Luckily, they also have the help of other keepers who are coming in at different times of the day so they can keep separate and adhere to social distancing rules.
Izzy, Emily, Layla, and Sarah-Jane are also keeping up with the daily routines of the sanctuary's resident Humboldt Penguins. “A few are hand-reared and very friendly and in the summer season from Easter onwards they take part in ‘Photocalls,’” says Izzy. “Usually, at the two feeding times of 11am and 3pm, we select a handful of visitors to help feed the penguins, give a talk, then visitors are invited to meet and stroke one of the friendly ones and take photos. To ensure we are ready when we re-open, we are continuing to go through these routines. Plus we continue training with our eagles, vultures, hawks, macaws and other species who take part in our big free flying displays throughout the summer.”
Since the zoo has been shut, its revenue stream has come to a halt, which of course makes it difficult to cover animal care expenses (which amount to over $1,500 per week). That’s why the zoo’s staff members have launched a GoFundMe campaign in hopes of covering food and other vital expenses with donations. If you want to help, you can donate here.