AZOO which opened at a North East college campus last year has won official recognition for its commitment to animal welfare, education and conservation.
Kirkley Hall Zoological Gardens, which is part of the Northumberland College campus near Ponteland, has been granted provisional membership of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquaria.
It’s the professional body representing the best animal centres in Britain and Ireland, and the recognition comes after staff at Kirkley Hall worked closely with local and Government vets, and other zoos across the UK, to establish its welfare and education credentials.
The zoo will now be subject to a mentoring programme with other BIAZA members, with the aim of becoming a full member by next summer.
Membership allows it to keep more varied and exotic species which are part of controlled breeding schemes under European endangered species programmes.
Steven Sykes, animal centre resource manager at Kirkley Hall, said membership of the association linked the zoo with more than 100 others across the UK.
He said: “It shows the public how committed we are to caring for animals and training students to the highest standards and industry practices.
“The first exotic species that we have been accepted to hold is the Red Crowned Crane, which is an endangered large crane from Asia.
“Two of these cranes, called Esmerelda and Gunther, joined our large wetlands aviary from Chester Zoo this week.” The zoo was officially opened in May 2011, as both a visitor attraction and a learning resource for the college’s animal management and horticulture students.
It is home to more than 100 species of animals including emus, wallabies, pygmy goats, marmosets, meerkats and alpacas.
It also features a river and forest trail, ornamental and walled gardens, an aquatics centre, indoor and outdoor picnic areas, children’s play areas and a tea room and gift shop.
Another new development is the introduction of an advanced animal record keeping system called Zoo Information Management System.
This involves collating animal weights, behavioural observations, breeding records and births and deaths to learn more about the species kept in zoos.
Mr Sykes added: “The provisional membership of BIAZA, and the additional resources we have gained here, continues to strengthen our role in providing a realistic working environment for our students.”