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The Heart of England Wildlife Park

I wrote a post at the start of the year when I found out that there were plans underfoot to create a new zoo in the UK – Manchester Zoo. Imagine how excited I was to discover this week that there is a second zoo being created which will be aiming to open in 2021.

The Heart of England Wildlife Park is the brain child of former teacher Martin Blythe. At only 28 Martin has given up his career as a business teacher in order to follow his dream of setting up his own zoo. What’s more, in order to raise capital to finance the initial building of the infrastructure, he has put his house on the market. That is what I call commitment!

The new wildlife park will be situated in Redditch, pretty much bang in the centre of the country. This gives it close access to the very large population of Birmingham which should help those initial visitor numbers. Initial animals look to be zebras, lemurs and meerkats but I’m sure there are detailed growth plans to widen this out as visitor numbers increase.

You might think that lockdown isn’t the ideal time to start a zoo but Martin has taken the lockdown in his stride. As explained in his series of weekly videos ‘from conservation to creation’, he has started work on the branding, marketing, financing and shop and café. Usually you’d get the zoo building done first and the gift shop would come later but, with difficulty raising funds due to restricted lending from banks, this is a clever reorientation.

Planning the shop first mean you get to pick your flag mark cuddly toys. Source: https://twitter.com/HEWildlifePark

The general feel of the zoo will be to have no bars. This is a common theme amongst successful zoos and allows for a more immersive experience for the visitor. Martin talks about using raised walkways and planting to mask any fences. If this sounds familiar then well done for reading my other post on Yorkshire Wildlife Park. YWP have also gone for this walkthrough safari feel and in my opinion it works really well.

Another interesting way of dealing with the lack of financing is to use crowdfunding. While the average member of the public can’t buy any shares in the zoo, the Heart of England Wildlife Park will let ‘members of the pack’ vote on decisions around which animals to display or what to sell in the shop. This is a really interesting idea and will give zoo nerds and the local community both a feeling of running their own zoo.

Check out the crowderfunder page here: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/heart-of-england-wildlife-park

Check out the website here: https://www.hofewildlifepark.com/

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