'It's been crazy': Cornish zookeepers reflect on nine weeks in self-isolation with animals

Four dedicated zookeepers, who have been living on-site with the animals they care for throughout lockdown, say it has been hard not seeing their families.

The Paradise Park Wildlife Sanctuary staff took the decision to self-isolate on site, away from their loved ones, more than nine weeks ago in order to ensure the animals would be properly looked after during the pandemic.

Morning chorus: these macaws are just some of the 1200 animals that need to be cared for at Paradise Park Wildlife Sanctuary Credit: ITV News

It was a hard decision to make originally. We didn't know how long we were going to be here - we thought maybe three or four weeks but we've been here almost three months now without really being able to see our families.

Izzy Wheatley, Zookeeper

Izzy Wheatley, Sarah-Jane Jelbart and Layla Richardson have even been sharing their accommodation with some baby penguins in need of constant feeding.

The four 'keepers have been living together in a flat at the park since it shut to the public in March. Credit: ITV News

It's been crazy, you hear all sort of noises at night, especially the Kias. They scream the loudest. It's been a lot of fun.

Sarah-Jane Jelbart
1200

The number of animals the four live-in zookeepers have to look after.

The family-run business in Hayle, which opened in 1973, had to close its doors to the public in the middle of March following government guidance.

There are nearly 1,200 birds and mammals to look after, including penguins, parrots and flamingos.

Some of the young penguins have even shared the girls' living space. Credit: ITV News

These guys give you a little bit of time out. Especially with working and living alongside the other girls - it is so full on. The animals just break it up. They're just someone else you can have a little chat with and they don't talk back at you!

Izzy Wheatley, Zookeeper

A Go Fund Me page set up to help pay for vets bills and animal feed has raised almost £10,000.

The four zookeepers have also set up a 'wishlist' on Amazon for items people can order and donate to the park.

Sarah-Jane said: "People have been graciously sending us those things. There has been quite a lot and it's been amazing, really heartwarming to see all the donations that we've received."

The red pandas are accustomed to lots of human interaction. Credit: ITV News