It is a funny word but no laughing matter, zoonoses are diseases that can be passed from animals to humans. Animals can carry a number of infections that can be harmful to people – so whether you are petting your dog or hand feeding a kangaroo we need to make sure you are aware of all the risks and to ensure you enjoy your day out. We have put together a simple check list of rules that we ask you to follow.

It is our long-standing policy to keep all public areas as clean as is reasonably possible, to encourage regular hand-washing with warm, soapy water, dried with hand dryers or clean paper towels, and to advise against putting fingers near mouths before doing so. This is in line with recent advice from the Health Protection Agency:

For direct animal-to-human transmission or indirect infection via the environment, good old soap and water is the best defence.

South Lakes Wild Animal Park is aware of events in petting farms which have closed to the public following outbreaks of E. coli* infections among children in particular. While all animals naturally carry a range of micro-organisms, some of which may cause ill health when transmitted to humans, precautions can be taken to minimise the spread of such infections. In the majority of cases E. coli is spread to humans through contact with the faeces of animals. In other cases it is transmitted through inadequate food preparation and cooking. Following these simple rules will keep you, your children and your group safe:

Do not put hands on faces or fingers in mouths while feeding or touching animals.

Do not try to kiss animals or allow children to put their faces close to them.

Do not eat or drink whilst touching animals and do not eat anything that has fallen on the floor.

Don’t touch poo! It sounds obvious but poo is always fascinating to kids!

Do wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after you have had contact with animals, fences or other surfaces in animal areas.

After contact with animals it is important to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Around the park you will find a number of sinks available to use and we also have fully equipped toilets available. Hand gels or wipes are not a substitute for washing your hands with running water. How to wash your hands! Hand washing is the single most effective way to guard against bacteria if you do it right. Teach children to wet hands, apply soap, lather for at least 20 seconds, then rinse. A good way is to sing “Happy Birthday” or “Twinkle Twinkle” whilst you are doing it.

*E. coli, or Escherichia coli to give it its full name, is a species of bacterium which is common in the intestines of animals and humans. E. coli 0157 is a strain that can pose a serious health hazard to the very young and old in particular.