Paignton Zoo has unveiled proposals to upgrade indoor and outdoor play areas and remodel the popular savannah zone. The investment of £2.3m will be a boost for the Torbay economy, with Torquay architects Kay Elliott on board and other local businesses in line for contracts.

Executive Director Simon Tonge said: “The children’s play areas are important because a lot of local families use them all year round. We want to keep improving our facilities and provide new things for visitors to see. In a few years the savannah area of the Zoo will have an exciting new landscape with new views and new species.”

The scheme will link Zoo visitors to the charity’s conservation work in Zimbabwe, where the Dambari Wildlife Trust carries out work with species such as rhinos, large carnivores and small antelope. The savannah will be landscaped to represent the Matobo Hills area of Zimbabwe.

The 14 acre (5.6 hectare) savannah habitat will be remodelled with new public routes, less tarmac and fewer visible barriers. Features will include African village themed visitor facilities, open plan mixed species exhibits and a large water hole for animals which will also act as a reservoir during wet weather. The cost will be roughly £2m.

In addition, the indoor Jungle Fun play area will be doubled in size, with new catering and First Aid facilities and a covered outdoor area for approximately 60 people. The cost will be in the region of £100,000.

The Hang Out play area, near the Avian Breeding Centre, is to be rebuilt with specially designed multi-level play spaces for children aged from 4 to 12. There will be better catering and covered seating for 40 people. The work should cost roughly £200,000.

Adrian Board, Facilities Manager for Paignton Zoo, explained: “We hope to replace and upgrade animal houses and make provision for some new species to go alongside the old favourites. We aim to submit a planning application by the spring and start the first phase works this autumn. Of course, the timing of each phase is dependent upon the successful conclusion of the previous phase. It is difficult scheduling work as much can only take place during the quieter winter months, but we are then vulnerable to weather delays.”

The work is pencilled in for completion by summer 2018.

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