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Concerns raised following Belfast Zoo animal escapes
A chimpanzee (not pictured) managed to escape its enclosure after building a makeshift ladder from a tree branch.

Politicians call for a review into safety measures

Concerns have been raised about safety at Belfast Zoo after two animals were able to escape from their enclosures.

In January, an endangered red panda went missing overnight but was later found safe and well in a nearby garden. Then on Saturday (12 February), a chimpanzee managed to escape after building a makeshift ladder from a tree branch.

Speaking to BBC News about the chimpanzee incident, Clare Bailey, Green Party leader for Northern Ireland, said: "I've seen videos of the escape and it shows it was cool, calm and well executed.

"We need to really start looking at what's going on at Belfast Zoo. I would be keen to meet up with the zoo (managers) and have these conversations."

Alliance North Belfast Councillor Nuala McAllister said that she had contacted Zoo owner Belfast City Council to ask for an urgent review into the containment of animals, with a particular focus on safety measures.

"The council has a duty of care around the welfare of animals at the zoo but we also need to ensure the safety at all times of the public,” she said.

Belfast City Council said in a statement that the incident was “highly unusual”.

A spokesperson added: "We would like to reassure the public that Belfast Zoo is fully committed to providing a safe and enjoyable experience for all our visitors.

“Zookeepers carry out a range of checks as part of their daily duties, including ensuring enclosures are free from objects which could pose a security risk to animals or visitors.

"Zoo management is assessing whether the tree branch used in the escape fell after morning checks had been completed."

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Public urged to provide homes for swifts

News Story 1
 The RSPB is calling on the public to help provide new homes for swifts, as figures show the birds' numbers have fallen to less than half what they were 20 years ago.

Swifts arrive in the UK late April-May and can spend up to three months in the country. The RSPB attributes the birds’ decline to modern buildings, which lack the nooks and crannies they need to build nests.

While some house builders have agreed to integrate swift homes into new buildings, the RSPB believes more can be done to help this incredible bird. 'Just, 1,000 additional new nest boxes could make a difference’, the charity said.  

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News Shorts
Detection time for omeprazole reduced to 48 hours in racehorses

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has announced that the detection time for omeprazole has been reduced from 72 hours to 48 hours. This is effective from 1 February 2019.

Omeprazole can be prescribed for the management of gastric ulcers in racehorses; however, studies have recently become available that show no direct effect of omeprazole on performance.

Tim Morris, the Authority’s Director of Equine Science and Welfare, commented: “Medication control in horse racing is essential to allow treatment for good welfare but also to ensure fair racing by medication withdrawal before racing. Trainers have asked for more information, especially on anti-ulcer medications, and we have used existing information to make a harmonised detection time for omeprazole available as soon as we could.”