Belfast Zoo is celebrating industry success with the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquarium Awards (BIAZA).
BIAZA’s annual awards recognise outstanding achievements in the zoological world and this year Belfast Zoo was awarded three prestigious prizes.
The education and marketing teams were both recognised with separate bronze awards for their social media campaign, #BelfastZooComesToYou, which ran during the first lockdown of 2020.
The campaign utilised a combination of 24 video updates and over 50 educational activities, shared primarily across the zoo’s social media channels, which provided informative updates on life at the zoo during lockdown.
The aim was to boost morale during the pandemic whilst also assisting with home-schooling as all activities were linked to the Northern Ireland curriculum.
Geraldine Murphy, Assistant Education Officer, said: “The key objective of our education project was to bring the zoo to pupils who were at home, keeping safe during lockdown.
“We also wanted to assist parents and schools with relevant curriculum-based activities where possible and to ultimately reconnect the public with nature during what was a difficult and challenging time for everyone.”
Sarah Boyd, Marketing and Events Officer, said: “The Belfast Zoo Comes to You campaign was created as a way of keeping the public and our supporters updated on life at the zoo during the pandemic.
“Our gates were closed to the public, however our team of keepers, gardeners, drivers and support staff were all still required to come to work to continue providing the highest level of care for over 600 animals.
“We felt it important to update the public as often as we could with news and videos so that people could still feel connected to the zoo even though they could not come to visit.”
Elsewhere in the zoo, the ape team was also recognised with a bronze award for Animal Behaviour and Welfare for its work in helping elderly chimp Lizzie regain her health after having two strokes.
Born in 1973, Lizzie is the zoo’s oldest chimpanzee and is the alpha female of the group.
Age-related health issues led to her having a stroke in her early 40s and then again just last year. Lizzie astounded vets with her recovery and she has regained her full mobility.
Senior Keeper Linda Frew said: “Lizzie is very popular with members and supporters of Belfast Zoo and we are absolutely thrilled with the recovery that she has made.
“A stroke is a very serious medical condition not only for humans but for chimpanzees too and can result in complications.
“The work that the team completed with Lizzie in regaining her mobility resulted in her making a full recovery and it has been an absolute joy to see her being active in her outdoors habitat, enjoying life again with the rest of the troop.”
Commenting on the three awards, Zoo Manager Alyn Cairns said: “Winning three industry awards from BIAZA is a tremendous achievement for the entire zoo team.
“The past year has been challenging in so many ways for everyone, and Belfast Zoo’s award success is a fantastic way of recognising the huge effort made by staff during this time.
“We’re incredibly proud of our contribution towards animal welfare and education, so to have our work recognised by experts from within the zoo community is a great honour for us.
“In the wake of the global pandemic we had to adapt not only the way that we worked, but the ways in which we communicated with our supporters.
“We hope the public have noticed the change in our communication style and have been enjoying the regular updates online.”