Noah's Ark Zoo Farm
|Location||Wraxall, North Somerset, United Kingdom|
|Land area||100 acres (40 ha)|
The zoo has been criticised for promoting creationism and in December 2009 it was expelled from the zoo industry's regulatory body for bringing the association into disrepute following a BBC investigation into its links with the Great British Circus. The BBC also documented a tiger's head being kept in a freezer and the burial of a deceased tiger contrary to DEFRA regulations.
For 35 years, Noah's Ark proprietors Anthony and Christina Bush worked Moat House Farm as tenant dairy farmers. In 1995 they purchased the farm, sold the Friesian herd, and converted the farm's 310 acres (130 ha) to arable land and sheep raising.
In its early years, the zoo exhibited farm animals, small domestic animals such as mice, rabbits and guinea pigs, and some exotics such as wallabies, rheas, alpacas and llamas. In the early 21st century, the collection expanded to include tamarins, lemurs, marmosets, a "finch fountain," meerkats, camels, tigers, african lions, white rhinos, bison, giraffes, capybara, zebras, tapirs, prairie dogs, emu, ostriches, agoutis, coatis, maras and various reptiles. The zoo promotes animal protection and conservation, especially emphasising white rhinos, Siamang gibbons, and black and white ruffed lemurs. A webcam at the zoo showed the live birth of a male Brazilian tapir in April 2009. New animals to the zoo in 2011 included five poison dart frogs.
Other attractions include twelve indoor play areas, a stage and seating for 500, and an indoor "Beehive Maze". In 2009 a wind turbine was installed to cut energy costs and reduce the zoo's carbon footprint. The zoo reports more than 130,000 visitors annually.
On 1 September 2011, Ann Widdecombe launched the zoo's "Elephant Eden" facility, an elephant sanctuary designed to house four elephants. It is set to become the largest elephant sanctuary of its kind in Europe at 20 acres (80,000 m2). The Born Free Foundation has criticised the scheme as being too small for its purpose.
The zoo's hedge maze, planted in 2003, is 3.2 kilometres (2.0 mi) long. It has two parts; one is a large rectangle in green beech (representing Noah's Ark), in the other part seven 'monster animals' outlined in copper beech.
In October 2009 the BBC and the Captive Animals Protection Society charged that the zoo's tigers and camels were owned by the Great British Circus and that the owners had kept this arrangement secret from visitors and from the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA). The zoo owners replied that the zoo did not hold circus tigers and that its tigers came from Linctrek Ltd, a DEFRA-licensed collection that provides trained animals for films, television, commercials and zoos, and that Noah's Ark had accurately described the source of their tigers to interested visitors as a 'private collection'. One of the directors of Linctrek, Martin Lacey, is also the owner of the Great British Circus.
The BBC Inside Out programme showed a tiger's head in a freezer at the farm and described the burial of a deceased tiger on the zoos private farmland contrary to DEFRA regulations. The documentary described how the head, paws and skin were kept with the owners permission and the intention to display these articles for educational purposes.
In December 2009, BIAZA stripped the zoo of its membership for what it claimed was the refusal of NAZF to provide BIAZA requested information and for bringing "the association into disrepute."
Earlier in the year, the Western Animal Rights Network (WARN) and the Captive Animals Protection Society (CAPS) made several claims of animal cruelty against the zoo, and charged that it regularly culled animals during winter months to reduce costs. The zoo denied these charges and explained that it had euthanised some chickens to protect the quality of the flock. In March 2010, an investigation by North Somerset Council into the claims made found that all CAPS allegations of animal cruelty against the zoo were "grossly unfair". However, zoo inspectors said there were some failures to comply with the Secretary of State's Standards of Modern Zoo Practice. As a result tighter licence conditions were imposed including bringing independent vets in to check every six months.
Anthony Bush is an Oxford graduate and Anglican Christian who advocates creationism. The Bushes named the zoo farm for the biblical Noah's Ark, and zoo displays argue the historical truth of both creation and Noah's flood. Bush has said, 'From the outside, our farm is not overtly Christian. But, from the inside, we are very strongly Christian. I am a Creationist, and we see the farm as a mission station to give people scientific permission to believe in God'.
Although Anthony Bush believes in Noah's Ark, he does not accept flood geology and believes that age of the earth is 100,000 years old—much older than the 6,000-10,000 years that Young Earth creationists believe, but much younger than the 4.54 billion year accepted by scientific consensus and Old Earth creationists.
Bush claims to be offering a mediating origins hypothesis despite scientific consensus that the fossil record contains evidence of common descent and that radiometric dating is not inaccurate:
We argue the case for a new approach encompassing a creator God AND pre-programmed evolution to provide variation and adaptation. We believe the fossil record does not show one evolutionary tree of life; instead possibly diversification of a number of body forms instead. Geological dating methods currently used may be inaccurate and thus earth history timescales could be very different from those presumed.'
The zoo has been criticised by the anti-creationist British Centre for Science Education for 'contradicting vast swaths of science needed to pass public examinations'. Medical doctor and journalist Ben Goldacre, author of the Bad Science column in The Guardian, especially criticised the zoo's statement, 'To follow Darwinism is to recognise only the fleshly side of our natures, and, as we know, the flesh perishes; Darwinism, in other words, is a philosophy of death'. To which Goldacre retorted, 'Harsh words. Bring on the darkness'. Goldacre also said that the attraction had 'the distinction of being the only pseudoscience zoo in the UK'. In February 2009 psychology professor Bruce Hood, director of the Bristol Cognitive Development Centre at the University of Bristol, described the zoo proprietor as 'the delightful but completely delusional Anthony Bush' and claimed that although Bush had rejected young creationism, he 'had constructed an elaborate but equally unscientific account of life on earth'. In August 2009, the British Humanist Association urged tourist boards to stop promoting the zoo out of concern that it might 'undermine education and the teaching of science', and vicar Michael Roberts, an authority on Darwin and geology, agreed that the BHA was 'justified in criticising' the zoo and argued that church groups should have been more forthright in their criticism.
- Bush, Anthony and Christina. "About us". Noah's Ark Zoo Farm. Retrieved 2009-02-17.
- Russell, James (January 2, 2006). "James Russell: A fun day out for all the creationists". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-02-17.
- PRV. "BCSE : Noah's Ark Zoo Farm". British Centre for Science Education. Retrieved 2009-02-17.
- Daily Mail Reporter (19 October 2009). "Zoo skinned dead tiger Tira and stored her head in freezer". Mail Online (London: Associated Newspapers Ltd). Retrieved 2009-10-19.
- Bush sold the herd shortly before the BSE crisis hit and prices plummeted. Banner of Truth Trust website.
- "Conservation," NAZF website.
- "Webcam captures baby tapir birth". BBC News Bristol (BBC). 26 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-27.
- "Poison Dart arrivals at Noah's Ark Zoo Farm". Clevedon People (Clevedon People). 9 November 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-02.
- 'Attractions', NAZF website
- Anthony Bush said the turbine would "allow us to help the future of our planet, our grandchildren and the community....This area is very windy and we often suffer the effects of the weather, so we thought, why not turn this to something that will benefit all of us!" DEA Direct, March 2009
- On 1 September 2011, Ann Widdecombe launched the zoo's "Elephant Eden" facility, http://www.noahsarkzoofarm.co.uk/
- "Work starts on Wraxall elephant sanctuary". BBC News. 1 September 2011.
- Top 10 of Britain. Hamlyn. ISBN 9780600622512.
- "Noahs Ark Zoo Farm animal protests". Evening Post. Bristol News and Media. 21 October 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-03.
- "Recent Press Coverage". Noah's Ark Zoo Farm. Retrieved 2009-10-19. "Several untrue accusations have been made regarding the death of Tira the female tiger. Tira died of a pre-existing medical condition and after carrying out a thorough and legal post mortem, we buried her here at the farm. This decision was changed after discussion with relevant authorities and Tira was taken away."
- "Zoo expelled from industry body". BBC News (BBC). 2 December 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-02. "The reasons for termination are due to a refusal to provide BIAZA with information when requested and entering into an arrangement with the Great British Circus, which contravenes the Animal Transaction Policy, despite having been warned of possible consequences. Council believes that the behaviour of NAZF has brought the association into disrepute and that there has been a breakdown of trust between BIAZA and NAZF, and this has unfortunately resulted in a parting of the ways."
- Staff writer (6 November 2009). "Noah's Ark Zoo Farm hits back at animal cull claim". Bristol Evening Post (Bristol News and Media). Retrieved 200-9-06-12.
- "Zoo cruelty claims are rejected". BBC News. 24 March 2010. Retrieved 27 March 2010.
- "Darwin Has Done a Lot of Damage". Evening Post (Bristol News and Media). 23 September 2008. Retrieved 2009-11-03.
- Harden, Rachel (5 May 2006). "Interview: Anthony Bush co-founder of Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm and former General Synod member". Church Times Online (Church Times). Retrieved 200-9-11-03.
- Michael Shermer (17 February 2009). "A Skeptic Goes Inside Noah’s Ark". skepticblog.org. Retrieved 2009-04-24. "As we started our tour Mr. Bush made it clear to me that he did not to be confused with those “loonie American creationists” who think that the earth is only 6,000 years old. No, no, the Earth is much older than that, he proclaimed. “How old do you think it is?” I queried. “Oh, I’ve worked it out to be around 100,000 years old, with Adam and Eve at around 21,000 years old.” No, indeed, there was no confusing Mr. Bush with those nutty American creationists! And what was happening between those two time spans? If I understood Mr. Bush correctly, he believes that between the creation at 100,000 years ago and Adam and Eve 21,000 years ago, there was the pre-Adamite period during which the dinosaurs roamed."
- Noah's Ark Zoo Park website. Young Earth creationists also reject Bush's beliefs. See The ‘Recolonisation Theory’—the latest compromise by the Young Earth creationist organisation Answers in Genesis.
- The founding purpose of the BCSE is to keep 'all forms of creationism including Intelligent Design out of the science classroom in the UK.' BCSE homepage.
- BCSE website.
- Goldacre, Ben (8 April 2004). "Where to find the alchemists of Fleet Street". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2009-04-24.
- Goldacre, Ben (12 June 2003). "Work out your mind". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2009-04-24.
- "University of Bristol Experimental Psychology". psychology.psy.bris.ac.uk. Retrieved 2009-04-24.
- Hood, Brume M (4 February 2009). "Michael’s Trip to Noah’s Ark". brucemhood.wordpress.com. Retrieved 2009-04-24.
- "'Creationist' zoo causes dismay". BBC News (BBC). 26 August 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-27. The English Tourism Council said that it had examined the zoo under its Visitor Quality Assurance Scheme but had no opinion on content. (BBC 26 August 2009).
- "Charles Darwin: a Fulcrum Appreciation". Fulcrum. Retrieved 2009-11-03.
- Roberts, Michael (2 October 2009). "Church Times - Noah’s Ark Zoo merits flak from humanists". Church Times Online. Church Times. Retrieved 2009-11-03.