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Rob Thomas, senior keeper
"A zoo isn't a zoo without the public"
 real 28k

Nuala Napier reports
"There was a fear that during the closure the animals might have missed visitors"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 4 April, 2001, 18:43 GMT 19:43 UK
Zoo reopens after disease scare
Tigers
The zoo was closed because of foot-and-mouth
Edinburgh Zoo has re-opened to the public after a five week closure as a precaution against foot-and-mouth disease.

But visitors who may have been in contact with infected areas or livestock in recent days are being asked to stay away.

The zoo authorities closed the attraction as soon as the scale of the foot-and-mouth crisis became evident in an effort to minimise the risk of animals becoming infected.

But the absence of the paying public has led to the loss of about 170,000 in revenue.

Lion
Animals will have to get used to visitors again
It has also been reported that some of the animals are missing the company of the visitors.

However, senior keeper Rob Thomas told BBC Scotland: "It is going to be more interesting to see the reaction once people come in again and they have to adapt to a visitor environment rather than this tranquil setting."

He said that, at first, it had been "quite pleasant" for staff to have the place to themselves and get on with work without too much disturbance.

"But we soon realised that it is actually quite disconcerting, and into the second and third week you begin to realise that a zoo is not a zoo without public.

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland
The society was formed in 1909 and Edinburgh Zoo opened in 1913
It aims to conserve endangered animals and wild habitats through breeding programmes, education and research
The society's annual turnover is 4.3m, but it gets no core funding from the government and current projects do not qualify for lottery money
Edinburgh Zoo is in the top three most popular paying visitor attractions in Scotland
The Highland Wildlife Park was acquired by the society in 1986 and attracts more than 70,000 visitors a year
It exhibits only native Scottish species which are now extinct in the wild, e.g. the wolf and bison
"And obviously the financial implications of not having people around - it does make you think about the long-term security of the zoo itself."

Mr Thomas said it would have been "very very serious" if the disease had spread to the zoo.

"There is only a proportion of the animal population here that is susceptible to the disease, but it is not entirely clear how much of the animal collection would have to be culled should the outbreak reach Edinburgh Zoo," he said.

However, he hoped it would not be too difficult to get people visiting again.

The re-opening comes the day after the zoo announced it had received a huge bequest from a mystery benefactor.

The zoo, and its sister attraction, the Highland Wildlife Park at Kincraig, near Aviemore, are to benefit from a 1.9m windfall left by a secret benefactor in her will.

The identity of the woman, a former resident of Edinburgh, is being kept secret to protect the privacy of her family.

Professor David Waugh, director of The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, said the bequest would help safeguard the future of the zoo and wildlife park.

  • Glasgow Zoo remains closed as a precautionary measure.
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    See also:

    03 Apr 01 | Scotland
    Zoo gets 1.9m from mystery donor
    20 Mar 01 | Scotland
    Zoos count the cost of closure
    13 Feb 01 | Scotland
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    17 Dec 00 | Scotland
    Zoo kills endangered antelopes
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