Darwin Escapes

Isle of Wight Zoo

This family run zoo has a rags to riches tale, and is now one of the most important and knowledgeable zoos that specialise in tigers and lemurs…

The Isle of Wight Zoo, known originally as Sandown Zoo for the beach it is located on, came into existence in the 1950’s and was originally very popular. However by the 1970’s the zoo had fallen into disrepair with The Sunday Times calling it “the slum zoo of Britain”, it was on the verge of closure, but this national panning was ultimately its lifeline.

Drawing the attention for a very successful businessman, who took over the zoo in 1976, and still owns it to this day, the zoo under his stewardship has gone from strength to strength, regenerating and innovating new facilities for both guests and animals, it has firmly established itself as a centre for wild animal management and conservation!

Care, Conservation & Education

Built within the ruins of an old Victorian Fort, the zoo faces one of the islands most beautiful beaches and back in the day the zoo was locally famous for walking its tiger cubs along the beach front. Nowadays, however, they are more focused on taking care of older tigers and giving them a happy retirement, with their fundamental values being care, conservation and education.

Every single person who works or volunteers at the zoo makes a contribution to the animal’s welfare, from maintenance and horticultural staff who take care of the enclosures, to the vets who look after them and the keepers who specialise in that animal and take the time to get to really know them, and what makes them tick. The Isle of Wight Zoo funds projects in India and Madagascar, as well as participating in the European Endangered Species Breeding programme for some of the Madagascan animals, all helping the global conservation efforts. As well as taking trips out to local classrooms, hosting school trips and guided tours all helping to educated people about conservation and making the experience a fantastic interactive one for everyone!

Meet The Animals

On your visit go and meet Casper, (not the ghost), the strikingly beautiful pale lion! Casper is a rare white lion who was born snow white, and as he has aged he is now a beautiful pale blond colour, he is in his prime and likes to tell everyone with is very impressive roar. His half sister Frosty will also be around, and lovely lady Nahla too.

Specialising in tigers the zoo is home to 5 of them, with 2 having backgrounds in the circus. Lola was rescued from a French circus along with her brother Sultan who sadly passed away a couple of years ago. The other tiger rescued from a circus in German was Simi who arrived at the zoo relatively recently in January 2016.

The zoo doesn’t currently breed from the tigers as they don’t know about the bloodlines, they are also a little bit too old and breeding white tigers is not ethical practice due to inbreeding and genetic health problems. However the tigers are very well cared for and the keepers know all their own individual quirks and personalities. For example Aysha is small in stature but big in personality, she greets her favourite keepers and then never leaves them alone, she gives lots of affection and endless purring!  Zena and sister Zia are polar opposites, Zena is a tomboy who shows no regard for her beautiful rare white coat, often jumping in muddy puddles and bouncing on her hind legs to ‘bite’ a jet of water from the hosepipe!

Zia is often seen relaxing and looking down ready to pose for all pictures, never hair out of place on her pale coat, although she isn’t as bouncy as her sister, she is still a loveable character, on her terms. Zena is a great spokescat for tigers, who creates the most impact, she is a sharp contrast in personality, between the loveable, overgrown kitten and the cat who could literally obliterate your existence in seconds if she chooses – lucky she’s fond of her keepers! Zena has actually lost an eye to glaucoma, a genetic problem caused by inbreeding, but it does nothing to take away from her beauty and stunning markings.

Bank Holiday Weekend

This Bank Holiday weekend (1st May 2016) the zoo has partnered with the National Poo Musuem, and together they are hosting a ‘Really Wild About Poo’ event with BBC Springwatch host Chris Packham.

It is widely known that Chris has a fairly extensive collection of animal excrement, with his most precious being his giant tortoise poo! Chris has said he is “greatly looking forward to sharing my poo passion” and will even have a fun ‘Really Wild About Poo’ quiz ready for you to join in too! Pop along this Bank Holiday to the Isle of Wight Zoo and learn all about the Sloth’s infamous poo dance (once a week!) and many other fascinating facts!

Isle of Wight Zoo is a great family fun day out, and who doesn’t love animals?

Happy Adventuring Ladies and Gents!

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Photo Credits: Editor 5807, Fluteflute, Stuart Logan, Charles Barilleaux.