Watch: Cork man turns his garden into zoo to cheer up neighbours during lockdown

Watch: Cork man turns his garden into zoo to cheer up neighbours during lockdown
Chris Prout who has built a zoo out of recycled materials since April at Crossbarry, Co. Cork. Local children named the animal figures and also donated three of the them. Picture Denis Minihane.

A Cork teacher has found an ingenious way to entertain his neighbours during lockdown after turning his garden into a zoo.

For Crossbarry man, Chris Prout it all started with an elephant he had fashioned from an old watering can and barrel in the garden of his family home. Not content with just one animal, the 24-year-old took it upon himself to create an entire zoo from recycled household waste. 

Now, the outdoor space is home to a whole menagerie of life-sized exotic wildlife equipped with real animal noises on loop to add to the surreal experience. 

Chris, who lives with his mum Ann, father Con, sister Elizabeth and brother Peter is enjoying hundreds of visits a day but particularly enjoys interacting with the community.

Three of the animal figures made by Chris Prout who has built a zoo out of recycled materials since April at Crossbarry, Co. Cork. Picture Denis Minihane.
Three of the animal figures made by Chris Prout who has built a zoo out of recycled materials since April at Crossbarry, Co. Cork. Picture Denis Minihane.

"We get a lot of cars stopping off each day, it's difficult to know just how many," he said. "I never thought people would take such an interest but they have been coming out of nowhere. Kids love the zoo but some of the adults love it even more."

The St Vincent's Secondary School teacher boasts some impressive pieces including penguins, giraffes, seals, kangaroos, bears, monkeys and a unicorn to boot. Each animal took around two days to construct.

"We try to include the children as much as possible," he said. "There's a blackboard where they can come up with names for the animals. They also get to choose which animals they would like to see in the zoo which explains why we now have a unicorn. He's the favourite with everyone at the moment because there's something so smug looking about him."

The family do their best to make the experience as realistic as possible for others.

One of the animal figures made by Chris Prout who has built a zoo out of recycled materials since April at Crossbarry, Co. Cork. Picture Denis Minihane.
One of the animal figures made by Chris Prout who has built a zoo out of recycled materials since April at Crossbarry, Co. Cork. Picture Denis Minihane.

 "For some kids going to the zoo is the first thing they will do in the morning so we try to move the animals around as much as we can to give the impression they've been moving around in the night. We're also inviting people to add their own animals to the zoo. We've already had flamingos donated to us. It has given people something to do during lockdown. Children feel like they know the animals at this stage and are asking lots of questions about things like what they eat at feeding time.

Animal lover Chris has a number of real-life creatures too including frogs, chickens, dogs, lizards and cats.

Locals are all playing their part in kitting out the zoo.

"One of our neighbours made a special sign with the words "Crossbarry zoo" that people can see when they drive past the zoo."

Chris's family encouraged his creativity from a young age.

A bumble bee is among the figures made by Chris Prout who has built a zoo out of recycled materials since April at Crossbarry, Co. Cork. Picture Denis Minihane.
A bumble bee is among the figures made by Chris Prout who has built a zoo out of recycled materials since April at Crossbarry, Co. Cork. Picture Denis Minihane.

"I can remember one Christmas when my dad gave us presents for Christmas. He gave us some "surprise presents" of empty cardboard boxes. They ended up being the gifts we played with most. I think dad's idea behind the cardboard boxes was to find out if we could see their potential."

THE ECHO WITH STORY 22/06/2020.Chris Prout, who has built a zoo out of recycled materials since April at Crossbarry, Co. Cork, pictured with some of the figures.Picture Denis Minihane.
THE ECHO WITH STORY 22/06/2020.Chris Prout, who has built a zoo out of recycled materials since April at Crossbarry, Co. Cork, pictured with some of the figures.Picture Denis Minihane.

Chris said the zoo will remain long after Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.

"Crossbarry zoo is here to stay," he said. "At the moment I'm building a lion so we'll be adding to it all the time."

The geography and english teacher joked that neighbours are no longer surprised by his family's crazy antics.

"Every Halloween my dad has gone all out with the garden so in a way this is nothing new for them. I think that's where I get it from."

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