Twycross Zoo

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Twycross Zoo
Twycross Zoo Logo
The Zoo entrance, on the A444
Date opened 1963
Location Norton Grange, Norton Juxta Twycross, Nr. Twycross, Leicestershire, England
Coordinates 52°39′10″N 1°31′47″W / 52.65278°N 1.52972°W / 52.65278; -1.52972Coordinates: 52°39′10″N 1°31′47″W / 52.65278°N 1.52972°W / 52.65278; -1.52972
Land area 80 acres (32 ha)[citation needed]
Number of animals 900+[1]
Number of species 150+[1]
Memberships BIAZA, EAZA, WAZA[citation needed]
Major exhibits Great Apes, Monkeys, Amur Leopards, Snow Leopards, Elephants, Lions, Bornean Longhouse

Twycross Zoo is a medium to large zoo near the villages of Norton Juxta and Twycross, in Leicestershire. The zoo has the largest collections of monkeys and apes in the Western World, and in 2006 re-launched itself as "Twycross Zoo – The World Primate Centre".

The zoo attracts over 500,000 visitors a year[1] and is open all year, except Christmas Day.[citation needed]

In 2000 Badham and Evans co-wrote Molly's Zoo, a book telling the story of the zoo's history.[citation needed]


The zoo was established in 1963 at the former Rectory of the village of Norton Juxta Twycross. Having long since ceased functioning as a rectory, the house became a private residence known as Norton Grange. It was purchased in 1962 for £12,000 by Molly Badham and Nathalie Evans. The pair had been looking for a suitable site to expand their zoological collection, having outgrown their 3/4 acre site at Hints, Staffordshire, where they had set up "Hints Zoological Society" in 1954. After the purchase of the Grange, Badham and Evans converted the 12 acres of gardens, outbuildings, stables and farm buildings into a zoo.[2]

In 1972 it became a charitable trust, the East Midland Zoological Society.[citation needed]

The Tropical House, opened in 2005, houses a variety of South American species in a natural walk-through rainforest.[citation needed] Displays outside the house explain how people live in the rainforest, including a selection of plants and trees that can be harvested for food.[citation needed] The main rainforest exhibit houses free-roaming species which include common marmosets, green iguana, Linne's two-toed sloths and many varieties of tropical birds.[citation needed] There are also fruit bats, spiders and a boa constrictor tank.[citation needed] The Tropical House formerly housed the zoo's reptile collection.[citation needed]

Improvements to the elephant paddock were completed in spring 2007.[citation needed] The exhibit features a sand paddock with standing dead trees, a mud paddock, three outdoor sleeping pens and the UK's largest elephant pool.[citation needed]

In July 2007, Twycross Zoo dedicated a new exhibit to Miss Mary Brancker CBE FRCVS (1914-2010)[nb 1] in recognition of her lifetime commitment to both Twycross and animal welfare.[citation needed] The Mary Brancker Waterways and Bornean Longhouse features a walk-through exhibit with waterfowl and Bornean birds and turtles. Educational material explains how people live in the traditional longhouses in Borneo.[citation needed]

In September 2007, Twycross Zoo received a £3 million grant from the East Midlands Development Agency, towards the construction of a new visitors centre. The new Himalayan themed eco-friendly centre opened in May 2010. The building contains a gift shop and cafeteria and overlooks the snow leopard enclosure and a large aviary.[3]

In March 2013 the zoo opened a new exhibition entitled "Dinosaur Valley". The exhibition includes 15 animatronic dinosaurs of up to 30 ft high, which were made in the USA.[4]

Animal exhibits[edit]

The giraffe house (photo 2011)

Twycross has the largest collection of primate species outside of Japan.[5] It is the only British zoo to exhibit all four species of great ape, including the UK's only group of breeding bonobos (which joined the zoo in 1992).[citation needed] The zoo is well known for its large collection of chimpanzees, some of whom were featured in television adverts for PG Tips tea.[2]

Twycross Zoo also holds a large and diverse collection of other animals, many of them threatened species. They include the Amur leopard, the rarest big cat in the world with only 30–40 animals left in the wild.[citation needed] The leopards at Twycross are part of a European endangered species captive breeding programme.[citation needed] In December 2006, twin cubs were born, both male.[citation needed] Unfortunately their mother died shortly after the birth due to illness, so the cubs were hand-reared.[citation needed] One male has now left Twycross Zoo as part of a captive breeding programme.[citation needed]

Other species include dholes, bush dogs, snow leopards, meerkats, penguins and many other mammals, birds and reptiles.[citation needed] The zoo also used to house giraffes but they left for Blair Drummond Safari Park in Scotland in October 2012 as they did not feel that they were in a suitable environment despite the fact their enclosure met all the EAZA guidelines. It is now being used for Zebras and Nyala.[citation needed]


Twycross Zoo has a professional Education Department whose task is to interpret the zoo for schools, universities and the general public.[citation needed] This ranges from giving talks and eductational sessions, writing information packs, and supervising research to designing and producing signs and graphics for the zoo.[citation needed]

Twycross Zoo has achieved the "Learning outside the Classroom Quality Badge", one of only a few zoos in the country to have the award.[citation needed]

Conservation and breeding[edit]

Ganesh, a newborn Elephant at Twycross Zoo

With the advent of co-ordinated breeding programmes and standardised electronic animal record keeping systems (ARKS), it is now possible to track different subspecies and ensure they are managed as pure subspecies.[citation needed] Several breeding programmes are managed at Twycross Zoo, including Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persicus), Patagonian sealion (Otaria byronia), siamang (Symphalangus syndactylus) and saddle-billed stork (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis).[citation needed]

A group of four female Asian elephants occupy an enclosure on the west side of the zoo.[citation needed] The females are all of breeding age, but the current facilities are not adequate for keeping a bull elephant for breeding purposes.[citation needed] Rather than extend the facilities, the zoo decided to try artificial insemination.[citation needed] The project was successful and a baby elephant, Ganesh, was born on 6 August 2009.[citation needed]

The future[edit]

The zoo is planning to open a contemporary art gallery providing a collection of paintings, limited edition prints, sculpture, ceramics, and glass for sale.[6]


Tara, a hand-reared (supposedly) Bengal tigress acquired from Twycross Zoo in July 1976 was trained by Billy Arjan Singh and reintroduced to the wild in Dudhwa National Park, India, with the permission of India’s then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in an attempt to prove the experts wrong that zoo bred hand reared Tigers can ever be released in the wild with success. The move was controversial as the mixed heritage of Tara was well known (her father was a Sumatran/Bengal cross), both by Billy Arjan Singh and the general public, before she was released.[7]

In 1995, Billy Arjan Singh spotted a young male tiger in Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, which he identified as having the typical Siberian tiger phenotype of white complexion, pale pelage, large head and wide stripes.[7] Billy Arjan Singh sent hair samples of tigers from the reserve to the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad for microsatellite and mitochondrial sequence analyses.[8] With recent advances in science it was subsequently found that the genes of other tiger subspecies had polluted the otherwise pure Bengal tiger gene pool of Dudhwa National Park, with Billy Arjan Singh's hand-reared tigress, Tara, the most likely cause. The "pollution" occurred because of the fact the Indochinese tiger (corbetti) was not identified as a subspecies until 1968, meaning many of that subspecies had previously been incorrectly labeled as Bengal tigers[7]

Tara was born at Twycross Zoo, and her heritage was well recorded: Tara's father came to Twycross from a private zoo called Howletts Zoo; Tara's mother came from Edinburgh Zoo. Tara's father was originally thought to have been a Sumatran/Bengal (sumatrae/tigris) cross. Both of Tara's mother's parents were thought to have been Bengal Tigers.[7] Due to the fact the Indochinese tiger (corbetti) was not identified as a subspecies until 1968, all tigers of that subspecies across the world had previously been incorrectly labeled: mostly as Bengal tigers. Thus Tara may have introduced different strains of DNA both through her known crossbred father, and many countless other ancestors mislabeled before the subspecies's discovery.[7]

Dudhwa tigers only constitute about 1% of India's total wild population, but there is fear that the genetic pollution within this small group may spread and threaten the Bengal tiger's status as a distinct subspecies.[9][10] Twycross Zoo was not to blame for the problems, but is often mistaken as such, as it was the place Tara was born.


  1. ^ Mary Brancker CBE FRCVS, was a Founding Trustee of the Zoo, President of the Twycross Zoo Association for 15 years, the original vet for over thirty years and the first female President of the British Veterinary Association


  1. ^ a b c "Twycross Zoo". Zoos-UK. Retrieved 3 April 2011. 
  2. ^ a b "Obituary: Molly Badham". The Telegraph. 22 Oct 2007. Retrieved 6 June 2013. 
  3. ^ "Snow leopards get a £7m home at zoo". Leicester Mercury. May 21, 2010. Retrieved 27 June 2013. 
  4. ^ "Texas dinosaurs arrive in Leicestershire". March 1, 2013. 
  5. ^ "Research at Twycross Zoo". Twycross Zoo website. Retrieved 2010-08-09. 
  6. ^ a b c d e "The Tale of Tara". Retrieved 6 June 2013. 
  7. ^ Shankaranarayanan, P. and L. Singh (1998). Mitochondrial DNA sequence divergence among big cats and their hybrids. Current Science 75(9): 919–923.
  8. ^ Tiger Territory 2001. The Tale of Tara, 4: Tara's Heritage article online
  9. ^ Tiger Territory 2001. Bengal article online

External links[edit]

Media related to Twycross Zoo at Wikimedia Commons