By John Murray
THE year 2020 was meant to be a roaring success for Blair Drummond Safari Park’s wild 50th Anniversary celebrations.
The 160 acre site, which boasts more than 350 exotic animals, including Scotland’s only giraffes, first opened its gates on the May 15th 1970.
But the big birthday bonanza has been ruined by the same Covid restrictions that have rattled the cage of the UKs once thriving events industry. A Pulse report from August 2018 estimated the sector to be worth £42.3 billion and the figure was up was eight per cent on the previous year’s survey.
While the future is uncertain for many of the UK’s leisure facilities, staff at Blair Drummond are confident, they can ride the storm. The park’s owners and organisers have worked in accordance with Scottish Government guidelines to keep things running as best they can. The park, located in the Stirling Council area, is currently in Covid protection level four and open to local visitors only.
Bird of Prey handler, Mark McAllister, has worked at Blair Drummond for nine years. He’s proud of the efforts him and his colleagues have made to ensure people can come to see all the weird and wonderful animals.
He said: “For us at the safari park it has brought it’s challenges, we are a private safari park, family owned zoo funded by the family and they have done their best to keep the staff on and keep the animals well fed.
“We’ve been able to re-open with limited numbers. We are not doing great but we are doing enough to keep the doors open and it will maybe take us a while to get back on our feet properly, but every industry has struggled during this 2020 Covid incident and like everyone over the years we will get back to some sort of normality, maybe not this year but hopefully next year.”
Mark’s positive outlook and message of hope will be welcome news to business owners who have been affected by the pandemic. But it’s not just the zookeeper’s words providing optimism. His personal back story may offer inspiration to those who have lost their job and need to retrain in another profession.
“I came out of college as a fully trained mechanic and didn’t enjoy the job.
“I went back to the job centre and they put me on a ‘get back to work scheme’ to redo my CV.
“I ended up at a local bird of prey centre in Cumbernauld called World of Wings. They trained me up. I was a volunteer for nine months but when I due to leave, they offered me a full time job and I ended up there for many years.
“Then I came here and I’ve been doing it for a long time now.”