Unusual Easter weekend for ‘eerie’ Knowsley Safari Park

During the Easter holidays, Knowsley Safari Park is usually packed full of cars on the safari drive, children visiting their favourite animals and families queuing up to get a treat inside the restaurant.

But this Bank Holiday weekend the picture is a very different one, with the popular attraction, like hundreds across the country, being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Since it first opened in 1971, Knowsley Safari Park has been a popular day out in Merseyside and has welcomed visitors from around the country to see some of the world's most magnificent animals.

Knowsley Safari Park will be empty in comparison to previous Easter weekends.

Over this weekend, the site would usually be heaving, with hundreds of visitors gathering to see everything from tigers, sea lions and giraffes on the foot safari.

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And ecstatic children watching lions, rhinos, zebras and more roam around their cars on the popular safari drive.

But instead, the site has a completely different atmosphere with no members of the public in site.

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Rachel Scott, head of marketing at Knowsley Safari Park, said: "There’s always a real buzz around this time of year at the safari.

"Usually, the Easter holiday is the first time when we really get to see different families on the paths and nature come to life because in the winter it’s more dull and Easter is when the nice weather starts.

"It’s a really important part of the calendar because it’s the first big school holiday.

"We can get up to 5,000 visitors on one day over the weekend. The Bank Holiday Monday is very busy and Easter Sunday is also a very popular time."

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Visitors usually make the most of bank holiday weekends to come and see the Amur Tigers.

Rachel said now the only people on site over the weekend will be staff who care for the animals.

She said: "Easter weekend will be a little different this year.

"At the minute the only people on site are our animal keepers.

"Usually it’s busy with thousands of cars going round the drive. There would be excited children, sound from the PA system, the rides.

The safari drive would usually be full of cars, but now only the keepers are in sight.

"Now you can hear the sounds of the animals more. It's so quiet."

Rachel said she can't compare the situation to anything the safari park has faced during her time there, but that the staff recognise it was the right thing to do to ensure safety for all.

Animal keepers and veterinary staff are still on hand to ensure the health and welfare of the animals, but are working to different rotas to socially distance, keeping on top of hygiene and regularly cleaning and using different cars and equipment to one another.

The lives and routines of the animals haven't been affected and Rachel said the only thing different for them is the lack of visitors.

This weekend, Knowsley Safari Park's car park will be empty.

Rachel said: "It is so quite on the safari and the keepers cars on the only ones on the drive so when the animals hear them I'd say they’re more likely to give attention to them.

"It's eerie, especially on the foot safari area. It’s the area where you notice it the most. You can hear the animals so much more than you usually do, like the wolves howling.

"I think it’s a really strange time for everyone and everything has changed so much, so now it’s just planning when we can open safely under the government guidelines."

Rachel said staff are working remotely and are rearranging plans and campaigns that should have been taking place at this time.

A look inside Knowsley Safari Park.

She said it's important to keep engaging with the visitors and that staff are giving regular updates on the animals and safari news on social media.

Knowsley Safari is also continuing to satisfy children’s curiosity during lockdown with its Home School Safari – a new online learning hub packed with education, wildlife and conservation resources.

Rachel said: "It’s business as usual for our keepers as they look after the animals at the Safari and we’re happy that they can share their daily activities by providing engaging resources which we can all learn from and be inspired and entertained by, while the majority of us are having to stay at home.

"We hope parents and teachers enjoy the resources as much as the children.

"We’ll be updating the Home School Safari on a regular basis during lockdown, so there’ll always be something new to discover."

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Children, parents and teachers are able to access free learning aids, including engaging educational videos, downloadable worksheets and fun animal facts and talks, covering topics including classification, Africa, food and feeding, veterinary animal care and exploring different species.

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Visitors to the Home School Safari can also see the Knowsley Safari vet conduct an x-ray on a male African Lion to diagnose an injured paw, get up close to watch Kuzma the Amur Tiger having a root canal and learn how giraffes are fed through the seasons.

To visit the Home School Safari click here.

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