Animal magic comes to north east Fife

Meerkats will be among the zoo's residents. (Pic: Lisa Ferguson)
Meerkats will be among the zoo's residents. (Pic: Lisa Ferguson)

A once-popular north east Fife visitor attraction that closed down two years ago amid shocking circumstances is set to enjoy a new lease of life.

It’s been revealed that Fife Animal Park, near Collessie, is on track to re-open next Easter as a zoo housing a variety of exotic and even endangered animals.

Earlier this year it was reported that a preliminary planning application had been lodged by a Perthshire hotelier with a view to turning the 10-acre site into a caravan park, but it’s now emerged that it’s been bought by a family from Essex.

Briony Taylor (26), her partner Michael Knight (25) and Mr Knight’s parents, Reginald and Ann, have formed Fife Zoo Ltd., whose company address is given as 12 St Catherine Street, Cupar.

The family plans to re-locate from their home in Romford shortly to start work on refurbishing the site, which closed to the public last February after its then co-owner, Peter Lockhart, admitted charges of neglect and was fined £2000 and banned from keeping animals for five years.

Ms Taylor said that they would not be making dramatic changes to the landscape but that the park needed to be redeveloped to modern standards and the ‘tired’ buildings needed to be renovated.

She said that it was hoped to open the new zoo by next Easter or summer at the latest.

“We have been working on the project for two-and-a-half years and when this opportunity came up we decided it was the right place for us,” she said.

“There will be a lot of exciting species that maybe people haven’t seen, or don’t see very often, and some animals people might not have even heard of.”

Zoo residents will include zebras, monkeys and antelopes and there’ll be a tropical house for primates, birds and reptiles.

Tigers could even be introduced at a later date and it’s hoped that as well as becoming a major tourist attraction the zoo will also serve as an educational facility and a centre for wildlife conservation.

Both Briony and Michael are well-qualified to run the facility.

They each hold BSc degrees in international wildlife biology from the University of South Wales and have studied animals in South Africa and Indonesia.

They also have plenty of ‘hands on’ experience at various animal parks and are being advised by Surrey-based independent zoo consultant Matt Hartley, who offers veterinary expertise as well as guidance on issues such as enclosure design.

The couple are also seeking membership of the British Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

“We want to ensure our animals get the best care possible,” said Briony.

“We want people to enjoy the park and hope to inspire them to work with animals.”

Fife Animal Park was a popular family atraction for years but closed down following concerns about the welfare of its animals.

The park had housed 76 species, including a zebra, Shetland ponies, meerkats, raccoons and owls, all of which were re-homed.

Amongst them was an emu, nicknamed Forest, who was in poor health due to its living conditions and inadequate diet - but who has gone on to become a star attraction at his new home at Birdworld in Surrey.