Meet crocodile Steve and Kermit the African bull frog on NI animal farm
Fancy meeting Kermit, the African Bull Frog or perhaps Steve, the crocodile? Lots to see on this unique animal farm near Portadown, Co Armagh.
C&J’s Animal Park was born from a love of interesting animals and conservation, created by Elaine McCreery who grew up on a farm herself.
Now she has some of the most unusual animals in Ireland outside of a zoo.
They have reptiles, a skunk, ring-tailed lemurs and black and white ruffed lemurs, emus, a crocodile, goats, ponies, a large variety of chickens and parakeets, pigs, rabbits, guinea pigs, dormice, a spotted genet and more.
Elaine grew up on a farm and when she had her own children, they also developed an interest in animals and nature, starting off keeping chickens and parakeets as pets.
“We then brought some KuneKune Pigs in from England, which we believe were the first in NI at the time. My daughter asked for a corn snake for her 13th Birthday and we would get neighbours and friends wanting to visit to see the animals, and we ourselves enjoyed visiting open farms and zoos as a family, one thing led to another and eventually we decided to open one ourselves. Our opening day was in June 2008.”
Education and respect for animals has been their mantra, teaching the importance of conservation and good welfare practices - as well as having fun.
They started with a few paddocks and a petting farm as well as a reptile house. Soon with experience, they were able to develop the farm adding more and more species, some unwanted pets, and others from poor backgrounds.
There is also a volunteer programme and volunteers are an extremely valuable part of our organisation. We have worked with organisations such as Mencap, Cedar and Clanrye training in the past and often have students who are completing animal management and veterinary courses gaining work experience here. While helping the Park, many of our volunteers have reported gaining confidence and essential skills.”
It has been difficult for the farm during lockdown. “Most of our animals have special dietary requirements, heating requirements and then there are vet bills, the cost of maintaining and improving enclosures and many more day to day expenses. We don’t do this for financial gain, it is simply something we have a passion for and we wanted to share the wonders of animals with the public. All money from admissions and purchases at the Park goes straight back into the animals and the park.
Elaine said: “The reptiles! Children still seem to be amazed by them, and they love getting to handle them and learn some interesting facts. When asking what their favourite animal was, I often hear the SNAKE! I’m not sure why, perhaps because they are very unique.
“I would say we are very privileged to have our lemurs here given that 98% of all lemur species are now threatened, 31% are endangered. It is figures like these that make us realise how important it is to look after the world around us.”
“Over both lockdowns we had many people and community organisations donate feed and fruit and vegetables to the Park, which was amazing. We also had a very successful reopening in April, the community as a whole has been very supportive.”
The park is enjoyed by all ages, and can accommodate group trips such as schools and summer schemes.
Elaine said: “It has been wonderful to see the return of these groups this year. We are open Tuesday to Sunday, 11am to 6pm. Prebooking is required at the moment. Animal handling sessions go on throughout the day, every day! Everyone has the opportunity to touch or hold a variety of animals, including snakes, lizards, rabbits, guinea pigs, tortoises, and more, depending on the day. Weare on hand to educate on proper handling techniques and answer all of the questions.
“We also have an outreach programme in place where we bring a variety of small animals out to schools, youth groups, nursing homes and other venues. This has been well received and many establishments have commented on the educational and therapeutic benefits of this programme.”
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