South Lakes Safari Zoo

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South Lakes Safari Zoo
Date opened 28 May 1994
Location Dalton-in-Furness, Cumbria, England
Coordinates 54°10′00″N 3°10′07″W / 54.1666°N 3.1686°W / 54.1666; -3.1686Coordinates: 54°10′00″N 3°10′07″W / 54.1666°N 3.1686°W / 54.1666; -3.1686
Land area 17-acre (6.9 ha)
Number of species 150+
Memberships EAZA[1]

South Lakes Safari Zoo (formerly South Lakes Wild Animal Park) is a 17-acre (6.9 ha) zoo established in 1994 by David Gill, and located in Cumbria, England. Named as such after its proximity to the world renowned Lake District it lies entirely within the Borough of Barrow-in-Furness on the outskirts of Dalton.

The park is a member of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) and bills itself as one of the best conservation zoos in the country, with a number of registered charities based in there. Visitor numbers stood at 309,000 in 2011.[2]


The zoo was opened by David S Gill and his family in 1994 on converted farmland. Construction started in 1993, and the park was officially opened on 28 May 1994.[3]

Until recently it was the only zoo in Britain to hold both Siberian tigers (also known as Amur tigers) and Sumatran tigers (the world's smallest and largest tigers). It has successfully bred the critically endangered Sumatran Tiger. In 2008, the Park celebrated one of the biggest births in its history - white rhino Nyala born on 1 June 2008. Zimba, born on 11 September 2008, was the second White Rhino born at the park. The zoo once held the largest collection of kangaroos outside of Australia, and still has many kangaroos.[citation needed]

The zoo has been awarded the "Top Attraction for Excellence in the Lake District 1999, 2000, 2003, 2005, and 2008" by Cumbria Tourist Board, and is one of the few parks to let many species of primates including the 8 species of Lemur roam free around the park.[citation needed] In 2014, in its twentieth year the park changed its name from South Lakes Wild Animal Park to South Lakes Safari Zoo.

Incidents and Accidents[edit]

1997 Rhino escape

In 1997, one of the park's rhinos was shot dead after it escaped from its pen.[4]

2001 Compensation for Pregnant Employee

In 2001, Lara Kitson won a case of sexual discrimination and constructive dismissal at a tribunal in Carlisle after she claimed that she was advised to terminate her pregnancy rather than fall short in her job. [5]

2008 Lemur enclosure fire

In 2008, 31 of the park's 120 lemurs died in a fire.[6] The fire destroyed three of the wooden huts in which they were enclosed. A spokesman for the fire service said it was believed the lemurs died as a result of smoke inhalation, and park owner David Gill said that the fire was likely caused by a faulty electrical heater.[7] The lemurs were usually allowed the roam the park at night, but had been enclosed because of the cold weather.[8] Gill was able to save 13, including the Belted Ruffed and Alaotran-Gentle species, but many of Ring Tailed, Red Ruffed, White-Fronted, and Black species died in the blaze. Gill said that for staff, who knew many of the lemurs by name, the loss was "devastating", and also that the deaths were "not just a massive blow for the park but for the European Breeding Programmes the animals were involved with."[6]

2013 death of zoo-keeper

On 24 May 2013, Sarah McClay, a 24 year old woman who had been working at the Park, was mauled by a tiger during public feeding time and suffered serious injuries to her head and neck. She died later the same day at the Royal Preston Hospital.[9] A statement issued by the Cumbria Police said there is no suggestion of any foul play or any issue of suicide or self-harm. Investigations are ongoing, and police have confirmed that the death was the result of either "human or mechanical" error that led to the tiger entering the staff area of the pen. [10]


Giraffes at the park
Rhinos at the park

African Species[edit]

The African section is split into three enclosures. The first, which is the first enclosure that visitors see upon going through the main entrance, is currently shared between a troop of mandrills and a breeding pair of pygmy hippopotamus. The second enclosure, which is the largest in the zoo, is a paddock shared between a breeding herd of white rhinoceros, a troop of Hamadryas baboons and a herd of giraffes. The third enclosure houses three African lions, one male and two females that have lived at the zoo since 2002. Additionally, inside the Giraffe House is a pen holding a small herd of reindeer (a species native to Northern America and Europe), which are used in the zoo's Santa's Grotto display every Christmas.

Other African Animals in the zoo's collection include African grey parrots, African Spurred Tortoises, Fennec foxes and yellow mongooses.


The zoo keeps several different species of lemur in their collection. These include Aloatran gentle lemurs, black-and-white ruffed lemurs (along with its sub-species, the belted ruffed lemur), mongoose lemurs, ring-tailed lemurs, black lemurs, white-fronted brown lemurs and red ruffed lemurs.

Primate House[edit]

While the zoo has many different species of primate in its collection, some of the species have enclosures in the Primate House. These include Colombian black spider monkeys, lar gibbons, siamang, cotton-top tamarins and black howler monkeys. Other species that live in the Primate House but are not primates include two-toed sloths, African spurred tortoises and Siberian chipmunks.

Asian Species[edit]

The zoo keeps two species of tiger in its collection: the Sumatran tiger and the Siberian tiger. The Sumatran tigers are a breeding pair named Padang and Alisha, who had a single, female cub named Kadi in 2010, while the Siberian tiger is a female named Nina, who has been part of the zoo's collection since 1996.

Other Asian species include Indian peafowl (which roam freely around the zoo), the aforementioned Siberian chipmunks, Burmese pythons (which live in a tank in the zoo's indoor picnic area), Rodrigues fruit bats, babirusa, Oriental small-clawed otters and a male snow leopard named Wolfgang.

The Lake[edit]

A large, pond at the centre of the zoo. red-eared terrapins (many of which are former pets either donated or rescued) and Koi carp live in the water, while white storks, Coscoroba swans, European spoonbills, black swans and various species of ducks and geese including mallards, Mandarin ducks and Magellan geese live around the water's edge. Many of the ducks and geese are allowed to roam freely around the zoo.

South American Species[edit]

The large majority of the zoo's collection consists of animals from Central and South America. Among the main exhibits are Humboldt penguins, giant otters (a male named Carlos and a female named Tupi[11]), spectacled bears and jaguars. The spectacled bears currently share a large enclosure with four other species: capybara, Oriental small-clawed otters, brown capuchin monkeys and South American tapirs. white-headed marmosets, cotton-top tamarins and emperor tamarins have their own enclosures at the centre of the zoo, while groups of cotton-top tamarins also live in the Primate House and the Tropical House.

Other Central and South American species include boa constrictors (which live in a tank in the indoor picnic area), Caribbean Flamingos, tayra,[12] squirrel monkeys and lowland paca.

Vulture and Condor Aviary[edit]

A large, walk-through aviary opened in 2006. It houses South American birds including king vultures, Andean condors, turkey vultures, blue-and-yellow macaws, scarlet macaws, Roseate spoonbills and little egrets. Some of the macaws are allowed to fly around the Park freely.

Tropical House[edit]

An indoor walk-through enclosure next to the Vulture Aviary. It contains cotton-top tamarins (which are allowed to roam freely through the building and are not always confined to an enclosure), Rodrigues fruit bats, chickens, donkeys (which are used in the zoo's Nativity display every Christmas), rabbits, pigs, alpacas, a pond containing a yellow anaconda and a green iguana, and an indoor area for the zoo's kangaroos.

Australian Species[edit]

Among the zoo's collection of Australian animals are red kangaroos, western grey kangaroos, Australian white ibis, black swans, emu, swamp wallabies and Parma wallabies.

The Australian Section of the zoo is also home to a colony of prairie dogs (a species native to North America), and is where the Caribbean flamingo enclosure and the indoor areas for the free-roaming lemurs are situated.

Other Facilities[edit]

Facilities include the Maki ("ring tailed lemur" in Malagasy) restaurant, picnic areas, conference facilities, a small train, and a gift shop. The Maki restaurant has a deck overlooking the giraffe, rhino, and baboon enclosures at tree-top level.[13]


The zoo bills itself as one of the best conservation zoos in the country. It has raised over £1.4million for active in-situ conservation for Sumatran Tigers via its charity The Sumatran Tiger Trust. Also with a charity called the wildlife protection foundation which helps wildlife in other areas of the world like Spectacled Bears and the lemurs of Madagascar.

The Future[edit]

In May 2009, the zoo announced an expansion plan that would increase the park size from 17 acres (6.9 ha) to about 51 acres (21 ha). It is hoped that transportation links and park retail outlets can be improved considerably to make it one of the region's most profitable attractions. The expansion introduce new species of animals including Elephants, and create larger enclosures for the animals at the zoo. The zoo's two conservation charities are also likely to receive larger donations as the overall visitor capacity of the park is increased.[14]

Plans for this expansion were rejected by Barrow Borough Council’s planning committee in 2010, largely due to concerns about traffic problems due to the proposed new entrance from the U6097, but after an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate, they were approved in February 2012. Fifteen new jobs are set to be created by the expansion, and park owner David Gill has pledged to use only local contractors to carry out the development.[15]


  1. ^ "EAZA Member Zoos & Aquariums". European Association of Zoos and Aquaria. Retrieved 17 August 2010. 
  2. ^ "Cumbria Tourism Task Group Review". Cumbria Tourism. Retrieved 20 June 2010. 
  3. ^ "Park History". South Lakes Wild Animal Park. Retrieved 17 August 2010. 
  4. ^ "Council Rapped Over Rhino Escape", The Westmorland Gazette, August 15, 1998.
  5. ^ Zoo boss 'told worker to end her pregnancy' at
  6. ^ a b "Fire at Park - Information". South Lakes Wild Animal Park website. Retrieved 2008-12-11. 
  7. ^ "Fire kills 30 lemurs at sanctuary". BBC Sport. 2008-12-09. Retrieved 2008-12-11. 
  8. ^ "Thirty lemurs burned to death in fire at South Lakes wildlife park". Whitehaven News. 2008-12-10. Retrieved 2008-12-11. 
  9. ^ South Lakes Wild Animal Park: Zoo keeper mauled by tiger in Cumbria dies in hospital at
  10. ^ A zoo keeper who died after being mauled by a tiger may have been "dragged" into a pen, police said. at
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Facilities". South Lakes Wild Animal Park. Retrieved 17 August 2010. 
  14. ^ "Dalton animal park to treble in size". North West Evening Mail. Retrieved 2010-09-16. 
  15. ^ "Dalton Zoo Expansion Plans are Approved by Inspector". (North West Evening Mail). 21 February 2012. Retrieved 23 February 2012. 

External links[edit]