Our animals are cared for by a team of specialised zoo keepers and animal health is overseen by the zoo vet.
We have around 20 zoo keepers who work with the animals and visitors. They are responsible for:
- cleaning, feeding and observing the animals.
- producing daily written reports about their animals.
- identifying changes in behaviour that may indicate poor health or potential pregnancies.
- animal enrichment.
- environmental and enclosure work.
- visitor feeding times, keeper talks and interaction.
- all elements of animal care.
From time to time, our zoo keepers are also required to hand-rear animals, particularly if they have been abandoned by their mothers.
Our keepers have hand-reared many young primates, antelopes, giraffes and cats. One of the most famous animals to be hand-reared at Belfast Zoo was Lily the Barbary lion cub.
Like humans, animals need a well-balanced diet to keep them fit and healthy. All of our animal diets are designed to replicate, as closely as possible, the natural diet of each species. We also monitor the nutritional value and amount of food which each animal receives.
As well as providing the correct diet, keepers deliver the animal diets in different ways including scatter feeding, ice blocks, termite mounds, hiding food and hanging food from trees. This is an example of environmental enrichment.
The zoo vet visits the animals once a day. Many animals hide signs of sickness because displaying them can make them easier for predators to spot. If a keeper thinks an animal is unwell, they will speak to the vet on call who then comes to assess the animal and provides any necessary treatments.
Other veterinary responsibilities include devising an annual care programme for our animals including vaccinations, worming and other preventative measures. The vet is also involved in animal moves to organise legislation, pre-export or import health testing, monitoring or isolation and quarantine periods. Our vets also have a range of contacts at other zoos who they discuss relevant issues with.