Setbacks have plauged the young owners of Fife Zoo but their passion for delivering top standards has been rewarded with a tourism accolade and the promise of two zebras.
Michael Knight and Briony Taylor had hoped the much anticipated animal attraction would be open this summer, but a string of delays caused by planning issues pushed contractor schedules back and stalled finance agreements by nearly a year.
“We are looking at opening the Zoo in Easter 2017,” said Briony. “We would have liked to have been open by this time, believe me, but we refuse to do so until it is perfect.”
Despite the 12 month delay, the family have chosen to open in stages, beginning with cafe ‘Africafé’ and soft play ‘Sloths’.
Briony admits the staggered approach is not ideal: “We really wanted to have one grand opening of everything together but this way we can show our commitment to the project and to the community.”
Africafé opened in January, selling a wide range of certified, Fairtrade and ethically sourced products. And it is for this the zoo has just been awarded a Silver Award from Green Tourism.
Michael Knight, director said: “We’ve worked really hard to ensure that Africafé is a sustainable coffee shop and to receive recognition for this is great, especially so early on in the Zoo’s development.”
The couple have worked hard over the last year with the help and support of their family and local volunteers, to reduce the impact of the business on the environment.
Briony is pleased about the mutual benefits their in-house local volunteer programme brings. “Our volunteers are people who have visited the site, expressed an interest and love to be here. We have supportive employment programme and welcome people through the Council’s Options in Life scheme,” she explained. “We want to be an active part of the community and the volunteer programme is a great way to do that.”
Briony and Michael also hope to soon open Sloth Play – a bespoke indoor soft play area which focuses on biodiversity of South America and the Amazon rainforest: “We get so many calls a day asking when we are open and we want to be now, more than anyone else, but unfortunately these things take as long as they take and guarantee, we are working as hard and as fast as we can.”
And they haven’t forgotten about the animals! Two zebras, part of a breeding programme, are destined for north east Fife. And Briony wants to get them through the gates as soon as possible: “We have been to visit our zebras. They are two castrated males – Marty and Jez – who are not as valuable in terms of genetics but we need to start somewhere and it is our top priority to get them in.”