Belfast Zoo is celebrating industry success with the prestigious Gold Award for Diversity and Inclusion. The Zoo has implemented a range of changes to significantly improve their accessibility over the last few years. This has included introducing Quiet Hours, Sensory Day, SignVideo software, a new Changing Places facility, a partnership with the Ability Café, wheelchair-accessible transport and a new website which significantly improved digital accessibility.
Ashleigh Fox, Commercial Support Officer, said, “Our main aim with this ongoing project is to ensure that Belfast Zoo provides a suitable service for all visitors, regardless of accessibility and disability. We considered the challenging nature of the site, visitor feedback, best practice, legislative requirements and budget constraints to develop an accessibility improvement plan which has greatly enhanced our visitor offer. Alongside this BIAZA Gold award, we received the first Community Champion Award from the Ehlers-Danlos Society UK for our work on improving accessibility and it is fantastic to receive industry recognition for our work in this vital area.”
The Marketing team won a silver award for their off-peak admission promotions, in which social and digital media were used to publicise promotional offers, resulting in the busiest December and January at the zoo in over twenty years.
Sarah Boyd, Marketing and Events Officer, explains, “After the public had less opportunities to visit the zoo through the pandemic, we wanted to offer these promotions so they could make the most of our services. We’ve seen an amazing response from the public, who broke footfall records over December and January, showing their support for Belfast Zoo and the animals we care for.”
Belfast Zoo’s Christmas tree recycling project also gained a bronze Sustainability award. The public donated hundreds of real trees for animal enrichment such as shelter and food foraging, with any excess Christmas trees recycled by chipping the trees and used in enclosures or as mulch in flower beds.
Zoo Manager Alyn Cairns explained, “This tree recycling project has been a mutually beneficial project for the public, the zoo and our animals and we’re thrilled it’s been such a success. It’s great that local people have helped provide amazing enrichment for many of our animals, in different ways. Asian elephants eat most parts of the trees, the Barbary lions love the strong pine scent, and the meerkats enjoy climbing through the branches. Primates such as the gibbon, also enjoy foraging for food that keepers have hidden.
Alyn continued, “Winning three industry awards from BIAZA, particularly the highly regarded gold award, is such a triumph for the zoo staff and their ongoing hard work. We take great pride in our contribution to animal education and welfare and getting this recognition from experts from within the zoo community is a real honour.”