Schools and Belfast Zoo closed after 'big freeze' hits Northern Ireland

Weather warnings have been issued for Northern Ireland and other parts of the UK

Schools and Belfast Zoo closed after 'big freeze' hits Northern Ireland

Image: Belfast Zoo

Belfast Zoo has been forced to temporarily close due to snow.

Zoo management in Belfast made the decision to close for safety reasons, saying the site - which is located in the Cave Hill area of the city - has been affected by a 'large amount of snowfall'.

It comes as the UK's Met Office issued a weather warning for Northern Ireland, with snow levels of 10-20 cm possible for some areas.

BBC reports the 'big freeze' has also led to school closures and traffic disruption in the North.

Sheep in a snow-covered field that straddles the Irish border between Co Fermanagh in Northern Ireland and Co Donegal in the Republic of Ireland. Picture by: Mark Marlow/PA Wire/PA Images

Belfast Zoo manager, Alyn Cairns, said they were 'devastated' to have to cancel a Christmas event planned for the weekend.

He explained: "Despite attempts by our team and external contractors to clear the site, the terrain and temperatures have unfortunately made it impossible to open to the public for safety reasons.

"The majority of our animals have been born either here or in other Northern European zoos and are somewhat used to the seasonal nature of our weather."

He added: "Those that need it, have access to centrally heated indoor housing and we tend to find that even the most delicate species enjoy exploring their new environment, even briefly, before retreating inside to warm up."

The snowy weather in Northern Ireland comes as snow-ice warnings remain in place for many areas of the Republic this weekend.