We bought a zoo – Meet the young couple bringing animal magic back to Fife.

Abandoned enclosures lie empty and weeds have grown up round the silent playpark. But new life is about to be breathed into a once loved animal park, which closed under a cloud two years ago.

A family has moved 450 miles from Essex to set about transforming Fife Animal Park into Fife Zoo. After the closure of the attraction near Collessie, one of its co-owners was convicted of neglecting animals kept there.

imageNew owners Briony Taylor, partner Michael Knight and his parents Reginald and Ann are working from dawn to dusk to revive and remodel the park, which will soon be home to exotic and endangered species.

An architect is drawing up plans for the park, which is to be arranged into geographically-themed areas, and the family, who live on site, are working to renovate the cafe, gift shop and soft play centre.

Briony said: “It is very exciting. We are going to make the zoo more of an experience.

“Rather than have people walk straight through all the enclosures we will theme the park so if they are in the Africa section they will feel like they are in Africa.”

The directors are keeping most of the species they will bring in secret until the opening, which they hope will be in spring next year, but Briony promised more exotic types than lived there previously, some endangered animals and some not previously seen in Scotland.

However, they have already indicated inhabitants will include monkeys, zebras and meerkats, who could be joined one day by tigers. They are working with zoo consultant Matt Harley to source surplus animals from captivity across the UK and in Europe. Old enclosures deemed unsuitable are being replaced and a walk-through aviary, reptile house and education centre are planned. It is intended the cafe will open by the end of the year.

Briony, 27, said: “People will be able to watch the zoo being developed. We get so much interest from people passing by who stop in to see what’s going on.”

She and Michael, 25, who have degrees in international wildlife biology, have studied animals in South Africa and Indonesia and volunteered at various animal parks.

While they lack extensive zoo experience, Briony said: “We do have a very, very good network of people and professionals around us that do have that experience and I know that we can make this work.”

Working with VisitScotland, they aim to bring visitors from far and wide to the region.

Briony said: “When people come to Scotland we want them to come to Fife Zoo.

“We can’t compare in terms of size with Edinburgh Zoo and Blair Drummond Safari Park but we want to be recognised alongside them in terms of our standard.”

With the backing of Ann and Reginald, a retired firefighter, she and Michael searched the country for a suitable spot for their own animal park. After a site in Durham proved unsuitable they spotted Fife Animal Park which went on sale in October 2013.

Michael said: “We came up to have a look and as soon as we were on site we knew the potential was amazing.”

They moved to distance from themselves from the previous business and said they are seeking membership of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria. They also intend to run educational programmes for schools, breeding programmes and support wildlife conversation.

This article appear courtesy of the Courier Newspaper. The original article can be viewed here