ZOOKEEPERS have made their place of work their temporary home so they can continue to care for animals.

Mark Tabone, the lead keeper at Kirkley Hall Zoo, and workmate Loren Elliott have decided to move away from their families and live in self-isolation at the zoo for the next three months to ensure the animals are well looked after during the coronavirus crisis.

Following the outbreak of virus, senior staff at the zoo worked with Northumberland College to put in place animal welfare plans which saw over four months worth of food pre-ordered for the 300 species of birds, reptiles and mammals.

Mr Tabone said: “The decision to move on site was a hard one to make, but knowing I can keep on looking after the animals at the zoo was very important to me. It has also let me help my family at home that are now following social isolation for 12 weeks.”

The keepers will be assisted by colleagues who will be practising social distancing during their duties as well as farming and equine apprentices from Northumberland College who have also moved onsite for the lambing season and to look after horses.

Steven Sykes, the college’s animal resource manager, said: “The help and support of the keeper team here at Northumberland College during times like this is vital.

“Their commitment and desire to ensure their animals are looked after during this horrible pandemic is just wonderful.”

Despite the closure of Kirkley Hall Zoo, the team is using digital tools to engage with current students on Northumberland College’s animal management and veterinary programmes, which will allow the students to continue to build their understanding whilst the college has halted face-to-face delivery of lessons.