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Port Lympne and Howletts to remain open amid coronavirus outbreak

Kent's two biggest wild animal parks have announced they will remain open, despite a string of other tourist attractions closing due to fears over Covid-19.

Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve and Howletts Wild Animal Park, based in Hythe and Canterbury, are both open to visitors for the foreseeable future.

Howletts, which has the UK's largest elephant herd, and Port Lympne will remain open
Howletts, which has the UK's largest elephant herd, and Port Lympne will remain open

But some restrictions have been added at both sites.

Managing director of the parks Tony Kelly told KentOnline: "We are open. The government haven't told us to close and the advice does not extend to open spaces, such as Port Lympne and Howletts.

"Having said that we have taken on board what has been said. In cafes and restaurants we have spaced out our chairs and tables so that visitors can maintain a suitable distance between them.

"We have also restricted the number of people on each safari truck at Port Lympne.

"For the last 10 days we've had strict hand washing protocols in place and have had extra cleaning in our hotel rooms."

The parks have over a 1,000 animals between them, including this baby gorilla and its mother. Photo credit: Leanne Smith
The parks have over a 1,000 animals between them, including this baby gorilla and its mother. Photo credit: Leanne Smith

In addition, all daily animal talks have been suspended, the walking with lemurs enclosure is closed and all animal encounters and experiences have been suspended.

Mr Kelly said that so far only three members of staff across the two parks are staying away and in self isolation.

He added that from tomorrow all employees will be issued with thermometers so they can keep a check on their health.

But he said that is it important for the parks to stay open.

He said: "We are a charity and we would be in a difficult situation. It costs £1.5m a year to feed our animals. So we want to stay open and responsible.

"We have a lot of staff and animals to look after.

Giraffes at Port Lympne
Giraffes at Port Lympne

"We haven't seen a reduction in the number of day visitors and as far as stays we haven't seen mass cancellations, only a few amendments."
Mr Kelly said several weddings have been postponed but said teams are working with the couples.

Additional advice to visitors given on the The Aspinall Foundation website states: "Following the latest advice of the novel coronavirus outbreak on March 16, 2020, we would like to assure all visitors to our parks that the health and safety of our guests and employees is our top priority, along with our animals as usual.

"We are continuing to monitor the daily updates and recommendations from the UK Government and will where necessary, consider any advice issued on our day to day operating activities.

"At present, we are continuing to take bookings for the upcoming Easter and summer periods.

"The advice from the government at this stage includes people being vigilant with handwashing and personal hygiene, being aware of their own health and self-isolating for 14 days if they or a member of their household develops a temperature or a new persistent cough.

"We have adopted a series of policies and protocols for the ongoing maintenance and control of this situation, with specific cleaning regimes in place, ensuring that hand sanitizers are available at all points where people come into contact with each other and that all facilities are well stocked with soap and paper towels.

"All short break accommodation continues to be cleaned to the highest possible standard with enhanced checks to supplement our strict procedures.

"Visitors can be rest assured that both Port Lympne Hotel and Reserve and Howletts Wild Animal Park will act accordingly, should information and guidance change."

Theatres across Kent have now closed, council meetings are being cancelled and thousands of people are working from home in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

For the latest coronavirus news and advice, click here

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