A rare albino walla-baby born during lockdown will be among the new attractions when a wildlife park reopens to the public on Monday.
Staff at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park (YWP) – which is home to England’s only polar bears, as well as tigers, giraffes and lions – are making final preparations to reopen, with a range of new animal residents but also a raft of Covid safety precautions.
The super-cute new arrival was born to one of the senior wallabies at the park, near Doncaster, South Yorkshire, at some point during its enforced closure due to the coronavirus restrictions and is thought to be the first albino wallaby at the attraction.
Baby joeys spend most of their time hidden in their mother’s pouch, so visitors will be lucky if they get a glimpse and staff say they still do not know the sex of the newcomer or exactly when he or she was born.
YWP chief executive John Minion said social distancing should not be a problem as the park is 175 acres and has more than 5km of paths.
But Mr Minion said the reopened park will have wide-ranging safety precautions, including advance booking only, restrictions on visitor numbers, controlled time slots for visits and clear social distancing marking.
He said there will also be new messaging and increased cleaning protocols.
Mr Minion said regular visitors will notice a number of changes since the park was last opened, including a new reserve – Atlantic Forest – and a new entrance.
“We are delighted to have been given the green light to reopen the park,” he said.
“So much has changed, from our new entrance to our new arrivals in Atlantic Forest.
“We have been planning the expansion for several years now, so to be taking the first step of opening the new entrance and the first new reserve Atlantic Forest is amazing.”
Mr Minion said the investment in the park’s expansion has not been halted by the lockdown and more developments will be opened as restrictions lift in the coming months.
He said: “We are really looking forward to being able to reopen all our outdoor play areas and outdoor cafe seating areas and this will add a great extra dimension to a day out at the park.
“We are well practised now at implementing Covid precautions and we are lucky to be an outdoor attraction on a spacious site. Let’s hope that 2021 turns around to be a good year for all tourism in Yorkshire.”
The new reserve, Atlantic Forest, includes a pair of recently arrived lowland tapirs, maned wolves and a pack of bush dogs.
These three species are all found in the threatened habitat of the Atlantic Forest (Mata Atlantica) in South America.
“We are delighted how the new animals are settling in,” said animal manager Rick Newton.
“It is fascinating to have three very different species as part of the new reserve, and I am sure that visitors will be excited to see them.
“The bush dogs are particularly active and inquisitive, I am sure they will become big favourites here.”
The Atlantic Forest is second only to the Amazon as a biodiversity hotspot, the park said.
It stretches along the Atlantic coast of Brazil, then inland to north-east Argentina and eastern Paraguay.
But of the original Atlantic Forest, just 7% now remains and the remaining forest is highly fragmented.
The Yorkshire Wildlife Park Foundation is supporting conservation organisation Wildcare’s project in Misiones, Argentina, to protect and restore wildlife corridors that are vital for species’ survival.
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