24 Jan 2022

National Reptile Zoo in Kilkenny continues to thrive in challenging times

National Reptile Zoo in Kilkenny continues to thrive in challenging times

Meet Skink at the National Reptile Zoo

The team at the National Reptile Zoo in Kilkenny have adapted well to Covid-19 restrictions and despite challenging circumstances recorded high numbers of visitors last summer.
Zookeeper and owner, James Hennessy explained that the risk of staff contracting the virus meant that contingency plans were put in place during the pandemic.
“It’s been a pretty hectic year for us. Getting through the various lockdowns and restrictions has been tough. While we had mastered the various social distancing and other public safety measures from the previous year, we had to roster our staff in such a way that if a member of one animal care team were to contract Covid and the rest of the team became close contacts, that we would still have another separate operational team which could continue to make sure the animals in our charge continued to receive the best possible care,” he said.
However the zoo enjoyed healthy number of visitors during last year’s summer season and the focus is now on the year ahead.
“Despite the lockdowns, we’ve still had quite a busy summer season. We’ve also been able to continue the educational aspect of the zoo. Our Zoo to You team has continued to visit schools across the country, conducting workshops which feed into the national curriculum. For schools which were having difficulty due to Covid, we were able to off our ZooZooms, where we used an onsite digital suite which I built here in the zoo, and we streamed directly into classrooms not only all over Ireland, but across the world. We’ve been able to give guided tours and workshops to schools as far away as India and Hawaii!”
Last year was a busy year at the zoo, with plenty of new arrivals to welcome and care for.
“Our animals have continued to thrive here during 2021. We’ve had lots of babies, from Frilled Dragons to Tortoise. We’ve even managed to successfully breed our Poison Dart Frogs, which is very reassuring for us, as they will only breed if we’ve managed to perfectly recreate their natural habitat,” said James.
In May, the team welcomed the arrival of two amazing Sailfin Lizards, Genoa and Mizen.
“I’ve been lucky enough to continue our in-situ conservation work. I’ve just returned from a trip to Uganda where we are working with a village who've been suffering lots of attacks from crocodiles resulting in numerous deaths and life changing injuries to the village inhabitants. I’ve started a new project helping the locals to co-exist with crocodiles. This includes a signage and education program, assisting in building CEEs (Crocodile Exclusion Enclosures) which allow for safe bathing and water collection, and implementation of a sustenance fishing permit, which will cut down on illegal (and dangerous) fishing practices. By helping the village inhabitants, it deters them from killing crocodiles, which are critical to the ecosystem in the area.
“I also used some of the time in Uganda to assist Kavumba Zoo to upgrade some of their crocodile habitats, do some health checks and move the crocs to bigger areas.
“For 2022 we hope to continue developing the inside of the zoo. We will be installing a disability lift, which means we can develop the existing upstairs area for public use. This will give us a bigger, more open educational space, with the potential for holding events, workshops and even screening of some of the zoo's conservation work! Fingers crossed our visitor numbers will continue to increase, and we can continue to develop the animal habitats and the visitors’ experience,” said James.

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