The bosses of a new animal attraction for Fife hope to create a unique new facility for the whole community to visit and enjoy.
Fife Council has granted planning permission for Fife Zoo and the delighted bosses are hoping the venue will be open in early summer.
We’re not competing with other zoos – we’re here for us.Briony Taylor
So far, the directors of the the former Fife Animal Park have renovated and re-opened its café and are transforming the playpark to provide a soft play area.
It’s hoped this will be open for Easter and be able to accommodate youngsters with disabilities.
Co-director Briony Taylor, who bought the venue, next to the Birnie and Gaddon Lochs, last year, with partner Michael Knight and his parents, Reginald and Ann, said the planning approval was a huge boost.
“It’s great for us, although it’s not the only hoop we have to jump through,” she added.
Briony and Michael, who have degrees in international wildlife biology, have studied animals in Indonesia and South Africa and worked at various zoos and animal parks around the country.
They are being advised by independent zoo consultant Matt Hartley, who offers veterinary expertise as well as guidance on issues such as enclosure design and conservation policies.
The planning consent will allow the family to build around 20 animal enclosures, as well as forming outdoor fenced enclosures and reconfigure the existing zoo, with new footpaths and landscaping.
Animals commonly found in Africa, Asia and South America could be populating the zoo, said Briony, perhaps including zebra, primate species, tortoises and birds.
Many would be coming to the Kingdom from zoos in the UK and Europe, so they were acclimatised and well used to the Scottish weather.
The couple are hoping to display best practice standards in animal husbandry, care, conservation and education, and will hopefully soon be affiliated to the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) and its European equivalent, EAZA.
“With all the paperwork and behind the scenes stuff, we’re kind of working seven days, but we know what we signed up for,” said Briony.
“We can’t compete with big zoos but we’re not here to do that – we’re here to be us.
“While we want to be of the same standard, we hope to provide something unique in Fife.”
A main priority was, of course, the animals, but Michael and Briony want to make the zoo educational and fun for everybody from all walks of life.
“We’re keen on being green too – we do consider ourselves eco-friendly,” said Briony, adding they used locally-sourced products and nothing which was tested on animals.
The couple, both wildlife biologists who met at the University of Glamorgan, had long dreamed of opening their own zoo and scoured the UK looking for a suitable site.
They moved from their home in Romford, Essex, after seeing the north east Fife site.
Visitors are already able to see some of the initial changes by visiting the zoo’s Africafé, which opened last month.
The café is due to take part in the Big Fairtrade Breakfast on March 5-6, when cash from coffee sales will go to the Fairtrade Foundation.