I am very excited because, on Monday, I’ll be going to Yorkshire Wildlife Park for the first time. I’ve now lived and worked in York for a year but I somehow haven’t been able to find the time to go. A global pandemic managed to get in the way but, now things are getting easier, I’ve decided its time to take out the notepad and pen and go and give YWP the Zoo Notes treatment.
When I visit a zoo I like to do a bit of reading beforehand. In fact, I’m starting to develop a pre-zoo visit checklist:
- Read the history of the zoo – this often brings up things I had no idea about and starts to give you a good sense of the culture and ethos of the zoo.
- Look over the animal list and see if there is anything particularly unusual which I won’t get to see anywhere else. https://www.zootierliste.de/en/ is an invaluable resource for this.
- Look over the current research projects run by the zoo as these often aren’t included with exhibit notes and are always interesting
- Check out the café & restaurant menus for obvious reasons!
Rather than leave all the research in a word file on my computer I thought it might be interesting to share with the world.
The history of Yorkshire Wildlife Park
Yorkshire Wildlife Park is a very new Zoo by UK standards at only 11 years old. It opened its doors in 2009 and, though I’ve been unable to find the original animal list, it looks like it was much smaller back then. From reading a swathe of material on their website, Wikipedia and news articles from around the time I think the things I want to make sure I don’t miss are:
- Lions. The lions were the first big carnivores brough in after the zoo opened in 2009. They were rescued from poor conditions in Romania and 6 of the original 13 are still at the zoo. I’m interested to see if there is any sign of their past or whether they just look strong and healthy like their wild counterparts.
- The safari feel. When Yorkshire Wildlife Park was set up one of the things they wanted to achieve was the feel of a walking safari rather than a zoo. I’m expecting large enclosures, lots of space, and who knows what else.
- A peak at the new expansion. Yorkshire Wildlife park is doubling its size (and some) by building a whole new half of the zoo at the other side of the river at its boundary. The plans for this look really exciting but I imagine that covid may have put a stop to it. I’ll be trying to see if there is any work going on which might indicate they are keeping going with the build.
Animals unique to Yorkshire wildlife park
I’ve been down the list of species and tried to identify things which are difficult to see in the UK. In rarity order my top 5 animals will be:
- Polar bears. Yorkshire wildlife park is the only English zoo to have polar bears. I’m particularly keen to see the Grandfather Grandson combination in the Project Polar exhibit. I have seen polar bears before in Sea World Florida as a kid and looking back, I’m a little horrified by the exhibit. See my last blog post ‘Should polar bears be kept in zoos’. This time I’m looking forward to a fairly guilt free experience seeing them in plenty of space and kept in pairs rather than solo.
- Roloway Monkey. Not particularly flashy but this looks like the only one of its kind in the UK. A critically endangered species this might be my only change to see one so I’ll make sure not to miss it.
- Okapi. There are only 5 zoos with an Okapi but this endangered giraffe relative was a key animal in zoo tycoon to pc game and in homage to where this fascination with zoos started, I can’t miss it.
- Amur Leopards. Again, 10 zoos have these so not an absolute must see but I’m led to believe that Yorkshire Wildlife Park has the largest leopard enclosure in the UK.
- Black Rhino. This is the more endangered of the two African rhino species and there are only 7 zoos in the UK where you could see it.
Current research projects
From looking through the foundations work I can see Yorkshire Wildlife Park are leading the way with African Painted dog conservation so I’m keen to go and see these crazy-looking canines.
There is also a third polar bear (Rasputin) who is currently being kept in quarantine. It would be awesome to see him too as I’ve heard he is huge.
From everything I’ve read, Yorkshire Wildlife Park is setting itself up as a large mammal conservation centre specialising in carnivores. The enclosures are likely to be larger than the typical zoo and some of the animals are pretty unique. Some zoos you go to because they are steeped in history, some you go to because they have a huge variety of species, and some zoo you go to because you know they have a really fun atmosphere. At the end of the day, I’m going to Yorkshire Wildlife Park to see Polar Bears. Do I even need another reason?