Kilkenny National Reptile Zoo continues to thrive in these trying times

The team at Kilkenny National Reptile Zoo have adapted well to the Covid-19 restrictions and, despite difficult circumstances, recorded a high number of visitors last summer.
Zookeeper and owner James Hennessy explained that the risk of staff contracting the virus meant contingency plans were in place during the pandemic.
“It has been a pretty eventful year for us. Getting through the various blockages and restrictions was difficult. While we had mastered the various social distancing and other public safety measures from the previous year, we needed to train our staff in such a way that if one member of an animal care team contracted Covid and the rest of the The team was becoming close contacts, that we would always have another separate operational team that could continue to ensure that the animals in our care continue to receive the best possible care, ”he said.
However, the zoo enjoyed a significant number of visitors during the summer season of last year and the focus is now on the year ahead.
“Despite the closures, we still had a pretty busy summer season. We were also able to continue the educational aspect of the zoo. Our Zoo to You team continued to visit schools across the country, running workshops that fuel the national curriculum. For schools that were struggling due to Covid, we were able to turn off our ZooZooms, where we used an on-site digital suite that I built here in the zoo, and we broadcast directly to classrooms not only all over Ireland, but all over the world. We were able to organize guided tours and workshops at schools as far as India and Hawaii!
The past year has been a busy year at the zoo, with many newcomers to welcome and care for.
“Our animals continued to thrive here in 2021. We’ve had a lot of babies, from flying dragons to turtles. We have even managed to breed our Poison Dart Frogs which is very reassuring for us as they will only reproduce if we have successfully recreated their natural habitat, ”said James.
In May, the team welcomed the arrival of two incredible Sailfin Lizards, Genoa and Mizen.
“I had the chance to continue our in situ conservation work. I have just returned from a trip to Uganda where we are working with a village which has suffered numerous crocodile attacks resulting in many deaths and injuries which have changed the lives of the inhabitants of the village. I started a new project to help locals coexist with crocodiles. This includes a signage and education program, assisting in the construction of EECs (Crocodile Exclusion Enclosures) that allow safe swimming and water collection, and the implementation of a fishing license. livelihood, which will reduce illegal (and dangerous) fishing practices. By helping the villagers, it deters them from killing crocodiles, which are essential to the region’s ecosystem.
“I also spent time in Uganda helping Kavumba Zoo modernize some of their crocodile habitats, perform health checks and move crocs to larger areas.
“For 2022, we hope to continue developing the interior of the zoo. We will be installing a disabled lift, which means we can expand the existing space upstairs for public use. This will give us a bigger and more open educational space, with the ability to host events, workshops and even a screening of some of the zoo’s conservation work! Fingers crossed, the number of visitors will continue to increase and we can continue to develop animal habitats and the visitor experience, ”said James.

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