Over the past few months, we’ve started to unveil our plans for how we intend to transform our zoos for the future. We’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of support we’ve received for the changes we’ve already introduced but have noticed a number of questions that come up more frequently than others. We’ve provided some answers to these below
Are you getting more elephants?
The quick answer to this is no. Elephants are highly intelligent and have very complex social and behavioural needs, so when Duchess, our last elephant, died in 2019, we announced that we would no longer keep elephants at Paignton Zoo. As much as we loved Duchess (and her companion, Gay, who died in 2010) and as popular as she was with our visitors, we do not believe that we can provide the necessary environment for elephants here at Paignton. We do however continue to support elephant conservation in the wild; we have been working to protect the Omo Forest Reserve in Nigeria since 1997 and this is one of the last remaining places in Nigeria where forest elephants still survive. Visitors are therefore still helping protect elephants when they visit our zoo, even though we no longer have any here.
Why are there still empty enclosures?
Moving animals is a complicated business and sometimes animal transfers take a long time. This has become an even lengthier process post-Brexit, and was made even more complicated by the impact of covid and associated travel restrictions. Hopefully we will be seeing more moves take place over the coming weeks and months and we look forward to announcing new arrivals soon. It’s also worth mentioning that sometimes, enclosures that look empty at first glance, aren’t. Our animals can choose whether or not they want to show themselves, and it’s often the case that the enclosure isn’t empty, its occupant is just hiding out of sight, or prefers a particular area. Our giraffe for example have had access to the former elephant paddock for 2 years now but they prefer to stay at one end, in their more familiar original area.
When are the lions moving?
We announced last year that our group of African lions at Newquay will be moving to Paignton. This move will hopefully happen before the summer and we are really looking forward to welcoming the lions to Paignton Zoo, particularly as you’ll be able to view them from the new lakeside path.
Why has my favourite animal left the zoo?
There have been a number of animal departures in recent years. Sometimes this happens because the animal is part of an international breeding programme and we want to make sure it has the chance to breed with a new mate. Sometimes it’s because we’ve decided that having fewer animals’ means we can give more space to those that are left; we want to make sure our animals have the best possible life with us so we need to make decisions on this basis. Or we might have a species that is particularly important and its conservation depends on us being able to look after larger numbers of them, so we need for more space for this. Whatever the reason, our priority is always the health, welfare, and conservation need of the animal and we will always work to achieve the best possible outcome for all of these.
Is anything new coming?
Yes! We have a number of new arrivals planned for the summer; some large some small. Although people have noticed the animals that have departed, we have also welcomed quite a few new small species to Paignton Zoo over the past couple of years – 4 species of frog, 4 species of newt, 1 lizard, 2 fish, and 6 invertebrates. They may all be small, but that’s more new amphibian species than most zoos have altogether! We’ve also seen the arrival of our hugely popular dik-diks, our dwarf mongoose, and, of course, new babies such as our 2 zebra foals.
Why are you so excited about a path?!
Because paths lead somewhere! It may seem a bit odd that we’re replacing pathways rather than building enclosures but in actual fact we’re doing both. A lot of work has gone on behind the scenes to improve our animal houses and enclosures, and these ‘back of house’ projects were necessary to allow us to finalise how we move forward and develop new exhibits. We’ll continue to release plans for new and improved animal enclosures, but can assure everyone who’s reading that it will be well worth the wait. We have an incredibly beautiful site at Paignton, which is home to an amazing array of animals and plants, both exotic and native. New pathways allow people to see these incredible sights in different ways, and change how they experience our zoo.