West Midland Safari Park
Giraffes at the park
|Date opened||17 April 1973|
|Location||Spring Grove, Bewdley, Worcestershire, England|
|Land area||200 acres (81 ha)|
|Number of animals||600+|
|Number of species||165|
|Annual visitors||1.3 million visitors +|
|Major exhibits||Realm of the Lions, Kingdom of the White Lions, Realm Of The Indian Rhino, White Tiger Ridge, The African Big 5, Cheetah Plains, Elephant Valley, Twilight Caves, Flooded Forest, Lemur Woods, African Village, Meerkat Mayhem, Penguin Cove, Mark O’Shea's Reptile World, Sea lion Theatre, SeaQuarium, Hippo Lakes, Santa Safari.|
The park holds over 165 species of exotic animals. The 4-mile (6.4 km) safari contains about 600 animals from around 40 different species from Europe, Africa, North America and Asia. The park also includes a large amusement park and a "Discovery Trail" including reptile and insect houses. There is also access to Spring Grove House, the grounds of which the park is built in.
West Midland Safari Park is the home to the only pride of white lions in the UK and is branded 'Home of the White Lions'
The park is a member of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) and the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA). The dhole enclosure in the safari is a heathland Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
The park contains the largest pride of white lions, the largest coalition of cheetah, the largest streak of white tigers, the largest pod of common hippopotamus, the largest mob of meerkats, and the largest lemur walk-through exhibit in the UK. It was also the first park in the UK to have the African big five game animals.
The 100-acre (40 ha) safari drive-through is a 4 miles (6.4 km) drive. Visitors can drive their own cars through the Safari or pay to go on one of the guided mini bus tours which are available throughout the day.
- African Reserve
The dhole enclosure is not only home to the endangered wild dogs, but is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for preservation because it is lowland heathland which is also becoming increasingly rare in the UK.
- Asian Reserve
This Reserve area is home to Asian animals including barasingha, blackbuck, chital, lowland anoa, sambar deer, Philippine spotted deer, and Asian water buffalo. This area is also home to the greater one horned rhinoceros as well as little owls, white tigers and black rabbits.
- Kingdom of the White Lions
In 2004, West Midland Safari Park opened this exhibit with one male and 3 females from sister park Ongava Game Reserve in Namibia. This was the UK’s first pride of African white lions. In 2007, four cubs were born in the space of nine hours, doubling the size of the pride. These were the first white lions born in the UK, and were followed two weeks later by two more cubs.
As of 2011, the exhibit was home to 15 lions—the largest such pride in the UK. In January 2011 the park named this exhibit the park's greatest animal exhibit in its 37-year history.
- White Tiger Ridge & Tiger Reserves
- Cheetah Plains
- African Wild Dog Reserve
- Realm of the Lions
- Eurasian Reserve
- Elephant Valley
Elephant Valley is home to the safari Park's African elephants. As of 2012, the Safari Park was home to only two female elephants. In May 2014 Elephant Valley became home to a new arrival baby male named Sutton.
- Other Species
- Cape Buffalo
- European Mouflon
- Fallow Deer
- Przewalski's Horse
- Sika Deer
Discovery Trail consists of mostly indoor exhibits, and includes animal encounters throughout the day where staff allow visitors to get up close and personal to animals found in the Discovery Trail.
- Animal Encounters
Animal encounters that take place in the Discovery Trail let visitors get up close and personal with small exotic creatures, under the observation of staff. Animals that take part in these encounters include ferrets, four-toed hedgehogs, gambian pouched rats, lesser hedgehog tenrecs, and long-tailed chinchillas.
- Black-And-White Ruffed Lemurs - Feature Attraction
- Creepy Crawlies
Creepy Crawlies is the park's insect house, and contains a small range of creepy crawlies including goliath bird-eater spider, leafcutter ants, locusts, Madagascar hissing cockroaches, and scorpions.
- Mark O'Shea's Reptile World
The park's reptile house is named after the famous herpetologist Mark O'Shea. O'Shea also makes appearances at the park, occasionally performing in the reptile encounters that take place outside the building, where guests can learn more about some of the park's reptiles. Reptiles in this exhibit include alligator snapping turtle, American alligator, amethystine python, beaded lizard, black rat snake, Borneo short-tailed python, Cuban crocodile, Eastern diamondback rattlesnake, Egyptian cobra, frill-necked lizard, green anaconda, green and black poison dart frog, green tree python, Jamaican boa, king cobra, malagasy giant hognose snake, nile crocodile, red-eyed crocodile skink, red-eyed treefrog, red-tailed green ratsnake, reticulated python, saharan horned viper, and western diamondback rattlesnake.
- Sea Lion Theatre
SeaQuarium is the park's aquarium, containing a wide variety of exotic fish. This is also the park's chain attraction. Some of the animals here include Asian arowana, Bermuda blue angelfish, chocolate chip star, clownfish, common carp, emperor angelfish, gold-spotted spinefoot, honeycomb moray, long-spine porcupinefish, orangespine unicornfish, orbicular batfish, pangas catfish, queen coris, red-bellied pacu, red-bellied piranha, Red Sea sailfin tang, redtail catfish, redtoothed triggerfish, reef stonefish, Siberian sturgeon, small-spotted catshark, snowflake moray, spotted sailfin suckermouth catfish, spotted unicornfish, tambaqui, Vlamingii tang, white-spotted puffer, zebra moray.
- Twilight Cave
The Twilight Cave is a walk-through exhibit containing free-flying Rodrigues fruit bats and Seba's leaf nosed bats. Nocturnal exhibits within this area are home to Aye-ayes and Malagasy giant rats.
In the amusement area there are a large number of lakes. One of these lakes have become home to the largest pod of hippos in the UK.
African Village & Lemur Woods
- African Village
The African Village is an interactive walk-through area, allowing visitors to see African village wildlife and a replica African Village Home. The African Village contains a walk-through area containing Cameroon sheep, Pygmy goats and Somali sheep. The exhibit is also hole to a large mob of meerkats.
- Lemur Woods
In the wooded area towards the rear of the amusement park is the largest walk-through lemur exhibit in the UK. The lemurs are free to roam around the walkway and the woods. The three species of lemur on display in the woods are red-bellied lemur, ring-tailed lemur, and white-headed lemur.
Rides & Attractions
There are many rides and attractions found in the amusement park. Wristbands can be bought from the kiosk to allow an unlimited number of rides. However, tickets are also available for purchase for individual rides.
- Cubs Kingdom
Cubs Kingdom contains seven rides and attractions for young children to use, which are Animal Ark, Flying Pandas, Moroccan Magic Carpet, Red Baron, Rhino Roundabout, Serengeti Gallopers, and Simba Kiddies Train.
- Family Fun
Some rides are designed for the whole family, from youngsters to the elderly. These rides are African Big Apple Coaster, Congo Carousel, Desert Convoy, Dr Umboto's Catacombs, Dune Dashers, Flying Lion Kings, Jumbo Parade, Jungle Cat Dodgems, Jungle Swings, Rescue Fire Rangers, Shark Island, and Slippery Snake Slide.
- Thrill Rides
Thrill rides at the park are Black Fly, Pirate Ship, Rhino Rollercoaster, Twister Coaster, Venom Tower Drop, Wild River Rafting and Zambezi Water Splash.
Found throughout the amusement area are many eateries. These include cafes, such as Explorer's Cafe, fast food restaurants, such as Botswana Burger Company and food stalls that are dotted around the rides.
There are a number of gift shops found in the amusement area, and these sell a number of products, from guide books to soft toys.
- Safari Express Railway
A 15 in (381 mm) narrow gauge railway runs between the main car park and the amusement area. Services are operated by a 2-8-0 steam outline diesel locomotive, built by Severn Lamb in 1979. The engine usually runs chimney first to the amusement area, running tender first on the return trip. This railway, when operating, provides a scenic ride between the amusement area and the car park. The track makes its way along the back of the walkways and crosses access-roads via level crossings. The line then rounds Hippo Lakes before arriving at its terminus adjacent to the African Big Apple Coaster.
The early years
The park was opened by Jimmy Chipperfield on 17 April 1973 and at the time hosted a few ex-circus animals. The bears in the park were housed within what is now known as Elephant Valley. But back in the 1970s it was called sandstone, the bears kept were the European Brown Bear there are no records of what happened to the bears, but the elephant house now stands where the bear house was. The 1970s also saw the park take on 'Boat Safari' like most stately homes taking up opening to the public and having a safari park in their back garden they also had boat rides on lakes with an island which would house either chimpanzees or gorilla. West Midland Safari Park had a 'Chimp Island'; the chimps were later moved to another zoo in the Midlands. With this people stopped using the boat rides and subsequently the boating lake was closed and has since been left for nature to take back. The early 1970s saw the arrival of the dolphinarium to the park but this was a travelling show and took up home in the sea lion theatre which still stands today the dolphins later returned to Margate.
With the new millennium came new zoo standards. The park saw its first new animal exhibit for some time with the arrival of four African white lions in 'Kingdom of the White Lions' in 2004. This was where the white tigers were housed. But where moved to the tiger reserves and a year later in spring 2005 the controversial White Tiger Ridge opened with much enthusiasm from visitors. The park was the first safari park in the UK to have all five African big game animals. But with the removal of the park's leopards to Scotland this leaves the park with only four of the five.
Plans are in place to build a safari themed hotel and water park at the park. Work is set to start in Summer 2014 and completed in time for Spring 2016. There are also plans to give the Safari Park its own train station. This would increase visitor numbers to the park and hotel.
West Midland Safari Park is well known for its efforts in conservation. It is public in stating its intentions to create a collection of animals that are in need of help in the wild. The park has replaced many species of animal with a similar, but more endangered species. The park contains many animals that are on the IUCN's endangered or critically endangered list.
Ongava Game Reserve
Ongava Game Reserve is the ‘Sister Park’ to West Midland Safari Park in Namibia, it is on the boundary of the famous Etosha National Park and is the largest privately owned game reserve in Namibia. Established in 1991 by converting four livestock farms, the 170-square-mile (440 km2) Ongava Game Reserve is one of few private game reserves in South Africa with successful breeding populations of both black rhinoceros and white rhinoceros. Additionally, rare black-faced impala has been reintroduced to the reserve, and this now ranks as one of the largest and most important populations outside of Etosha. Large game such as Burchell’s Zebra, gemsbok, giraffe, eland, and springbok also inhabit the reserve.
In 2006 the managing directors of West Midland Safari Park officially opened the Ongava Research Centre, which focuses on research on rhinos, lions, and carrying capacity of the reserves. The centre has three full-time researchers who also work closely with the management of OGR, Save the Rhinos and the University of Cape Town. ORC is also regularly visited by Safari Staff for training. There are plans in place for the public to be able to take safari holidays at the reserves.
In 2001 West Midland Safari Park brought two Sea Life Centres in Rhyl and Weston-super-Mare from Merlin Entertainment, and created 'Seaquarium' conservation centres for rare sea wildlife. The original Seaquarium is still at the park.
The two female African elephants at the zoo were trained to wave the Union Jack flag when the Severn Valley Railway train carrying the Olympic torch for the 2012 Summer Olympics stopped by their enclosure.
- "West Midland Safari Park". britishzoos.co.uk. Diamond Publishing Ltd. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
- "BIAZA Zoos and Aquariums". biaza.org.uk. BIAZA. Retrieved 19 February 2011.
- "EAZA Member Zoos & Aquariums". eaza.net. EAZA. Retrieved 19 February 2011.
- "Safari Drive-Through". wmsp.co.uk. West Midland Safari Park. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
- "Safari Bus Guided Tours". wmsp.co.uk. West Midland Safari Park. Retrieved 1 January 2013.
- "Conservation". wmsp.co.uk. West Midland Safari Park. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
- "Safari Park Names Greatest Exhibit in 37 Years". wmsp.co.uk. West Midland Safari Park. 6 January 2011. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
- "West Midland Safari Park in United Kingdom". elephant.se. Elephant Encyclopedia. Retrieved 31 December 2012.
- "New Baby Elephant Named!" (Press release). Bewdley, Worcestershire: West Midland Safari Park. 12 June 2014. Retrieved 12 June 2014.
- "Discovery Trail". wmsp.co.uk. West Midland Safari Park. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
- "Penguin Cove". wmsp.co.uk. West Midland Safari Park. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
- "West Midlands Safari Park expansion up for discussion". BBC News Hereford & Worcester. 9 September 2013. Retrieved 14 February 2014.
- "Ongava Research Centre (ORC) & Namibian Wildlife Conservation Trust (NWCT)". wmsp.co.uk. West Midland Safari Park. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
- "Safari park's sea life move". worcesternews.co.uk. Worchster News. 25 October 2001. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
- "Flag-waving Elephants join Olympic torch relay". bbc.co.uk. BBC. 24 May 2012. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to West Midland Safari Park.|
- Official website
- Santa Safari Official Site
- Seaquarium Official Site
- Spring Grove House Official Site