When Wild Ireland closed its doors due to the Covid-19 pandemic it needed support and another Donegal company, Feedpods, was able to do just that. The two businesses have worked together to create a very innovative solution to 24/7 animal care.
The Wild Ireland Animal Sanctuary, a business unlike most in Donegal is located in a small pocket of woodland on the Inishowen peninsula. As founder Killian McLaughlin explains ‘’many animals such as wolves, lynx, bears and wild boar were common in Ireland many years ago, something many people aren’t aware of’’. Through the efforts of Wild Ireland, these animals are now residing back in familiar terrain in Donegal.
When Wild Ireland was forced to close due to the pandemic in March, it didn’t work like other businesses. ‘’We simply weren’t able to turn off the lights and close our doors. We had to operate as normal, minus visitors, which involved cleaning, watering and feeding animals as normal. Bears for example consume over €500 of fresh fruit and veg every week’’ explains Killian.
Wild Ireland needed assistance and another Donegal business Feedpods, were just the company to assist. Feedpods provide solar powered robotic feeding systems, software management and enrichment products.
Through a Business Continuity Voucher from LEO (Local Enterprise Office) Donegal, within Donegal Council, the two innovators have come together to develop a randomised feed and monitoring solution for animals at Wild Ireland which can be operated and viewed online. This innovation helps to enhance the animals’ routine, providing stimulation through scattered feed times, as it would be in the wild. In addition it reduces the need for personal contact which prevents the spread of COVID-19 from humans to animals.
Feedpods systems provide feeding solutions to animal caregivers in over 120 zoos, safari parks and aquariums from San Diego to Singapore Zoo. An important aspect of the feed solution is that it also provided a platform to control nutrition delivery, randomise feeding and see the habitat temperature, all this can be controlled remotely which allows for feeding even when the facility is closed providing around the clock animal care and nutrition delivery.
A spokesperson for Feedpods said ‘to be able to work with Killian and Wild Ireland through the Local Enterprise Office Donegal scheme was fantastic. Through this innovation, the animals, such as bears and monkeys are able to be cared for and monitored remotely 24/7 by Killian and the team at Wild Ireland.’’
New challenges undoubtedly exist for reopening Wild Ireland with social distancing and minimising crowd congregation, which will result in a new one-way system and online bookings only. New opportunities have also arisen, with the Feedpods partnership developing beyond the initial Business Continuity support.
A joint initiative between the two is in development where they are looking to bring the Wild Ireland experience to the classroom for students and with Feedpods technical capability, students will be able to learn about the various animals native to Ireland within the Wild Ireland sanctuary. The ultimate aim is to encourage a greater appreciation for animals among students while also through technology encourage greater participation in STEM subjects.
Killian believes now more than ever it is important for the tourism sector to work together, pre pandemic Wild Ireland teamed up with local hotels to offer guests Wild Ireland getaway packages and to ensure tourist providers in the county recover quickly he is encouraging ‘’everyone within the sector to work together. The greater the collective offering we can provide in Donegal, the greater the tourist experience will be and that will ultimately drive sustainable tourism recovery and growth.’’