This year Paignton Zoo, part of the conservation charity Wild Planet Trust, is celebrating its 100th anniversary and it is certainly set to be a historic year as they embark on a period of redevelopment that aims to transform the popular attraction.
Dennis Flynn, Chief Executive Officer of Wild Planet Trust said:
“We’re taking this opportunity, as we celebrate our centenary year, to reflect on our past but also make plans that will secure our future for the next 100 years. This will include creating world-class living conditions for our animals and exciting new experiences for our visitors.”
The driving force behind these changes is to improve upon the sustainability of their site and make the zoo more resilient to overcome the challenges they have recently been facing.
Dennis continued: “The challenges we have faced over recent months and years have all shaped the situation we face today. Ageing infrastructure, weather-related damage, the cost of living crisis, Brexit repercussions, and the restrictions and future implications imposed by Avian Influenza have all played their part. Our mission now is to become more agile and resilient, to pre-empt future obstacles and to lead the way in helping halt species decline.”
As a result, there are a number of exhibits within the zoo that will see significant change over the coming months. One of the most notable changes will be to their Baboon Rock exhibit, which was constructed in 1973. Fifty years of wear and tear have gradually taken their toll, and the zoo has confirmed that in the latter part of this year their troop of baboons will be relocated within the zoo to a purpose-built and upgraded home. Recent visitors to Paignton Zoo may have also noticed that a new and improved home has been built for the zoo’s zebras, which they will be moving into soon.
The zoo’s popular Crocodile Swamp exhibit has been closed since December 2022 and following a thorough assessment of the cost to undertake essential repairs, the zoo has confirmed that they will not be re-opening Crocodile Swamp.
Clare Rugg, Head of Conservation Services said:
“The exhibit requires new heating and ventilation systems and extensive work to the roof, and the significant sum to repair these would still not overcome fundamental issues with the building’s infrastructure.”
Clare continued: “This has not been an easy decision as Crocodile Swamp was a popular exhibit with our visitors. Our Komodo dragon ‘Khaleesi’ will be leaving us for another UK zoo and we are looking for new homes for the other animals and plants housed within the exhibit. Sadly, we do not have anywhere else on-site that could provide the conditions needed to keep these animals healthy. We take our professional responsibilities as a conservation charity seriously, and all of our animals will be going to the most suitable homes that will cater to their specialist needs.”
Elsewhere, the zoo continues to develop plans to limit the threat to their organisation posed by Avian Influenza (Bird Flu). In August 2022, the zoo was forced to close for over two weeks due to a positive case of this disease, and even though restrictions have recently been eased, the risk of future reoccurrence is still present. Visitors can expect to see changes to some areas over the coming months as we work to ensure our birds are safe and our vital conservation work can continue.
“We have many exciting plans which we look forward to sharing with everyone soon, and over the coming months and years visitors can expect to see some amazing transformational changes.”