Dartmoor Zoological Park
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|Land area||33 acres (13 ha)|
|Annual visitors||80,000 (2016)|
Dartmoor Zoological Park (originally Dartmoor Wildlife Park) is a 30-acre (12 ha) zoo near the village of Sparkwell, on the south-west edge of Dartmoor, in the county of Devon in the South West of England. It was opened in 1968 by Ellis Daw who ran it until its licence was revoked and it was forced to close in 2006. The zoo was bought in August 2006 by Benjamin Mee who reopened it in July 2007, later writing a book about his experiences called We Bought a Zoo (2008). A 2011 film of the same title was loosely based on the book.
The zoo was opened as Dartmoor Wildlife Park by Ellis Daw in 1968 on the Goodamoor Estate that his family had bought in 1948. Goodamoor House was built in the 17th century by Paul Ourry Treby of the Treby family in the parish of Plymton St. Mary. The Treby family lived on the estate until the late 19th century.
In the following years Daw acquired many species to add to his collection, including lions and tigers, jaguars and pumas. He was also instrumental in the design and construction of many of the buildings and enclosures around the park.
Dartmoor Wildlife Park became the subject of local debate after a 2001 report by the Captive Animals Protection Society raised questions about the welfare of the animals and the conditions in which they were kept. The group criticised the living conditions for the animals and the safety barriers, calling for the zoo's license to be revoked. Ellis Daw denied the allegations, pointing to the lack of accidents in the zoo's 33-year history. The council were reluctant to revoke the zoo's licence, due to concerns over the future of the animals, but did charge Ellis Daw with 16 offenses after the zoo was investigated. All but one of these charges were dropped, but Daw was found guilty of breeding Siberian tigers outside of an organised breeding programme, and of keeping them in poor conditions. For this, Daw received a £200 fine and a conditional discharge, and the tigers were sent to a wildlife centre in the Netherlands.
The zoo closed to the public on 23 April 2006. Ellis Daw's autobiography, From the Lamb to the Tiger, in which he recorded the history of the zoo during the time that he owned it, was published in 2011. Next to the house is a large block of granite on which is inscribed:
ELLIS BOWEN DAW - Born 15th September 1928 - FOUNDER OF DARTMOOR WILDLIFE PARK 29 JUNE 1968 - Here's to those who wish me well and those who don't can go to hell!
In August 2006, the Wildlife Park was bought for £1.1m by the Mee family consisting of Benjamin Mee, his wife, Katharine, son Milo and daughter Ella. Four days after the family moved in, the jaguar escaped. He was later anaesthetised and captured after leaping into the nearby tiger enclosure. The following February the zoo obtained the £500,000 it needed for refurbishment of the site, and the zoo reopened as the rebranded Dartmoor Zoological Park on 7 July 2007.
The zoo has been a member of BIAZA (the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums) since 2011, and as a result is able to obtain animals from other BIAZA collections, as well as move certain animals on to other collections in order to become part of breeding programmes. In 2011 the zoo was awarded Eden's top wildlife attraction of the year and a Global Enterprise award.
In December 2014 the zoo became a charity after raising £340,000 by crowdfunding.
We Bought A Zoo
A four part television documentary entitled Ben's Zoo was broadcast in 2006. It followed the story of Mee and his staff as they worked to rebuild the park. In 2008 Benjamin Mee published a book titled We bought a Zoo: The Amazing True Story of a Young Family, a Broken Down Zoo, and the 200 Wild Animals That Change Their Lives Forever’, about his and his family's experiences within the zoo.
The book was loosely adapted into a 2011 film, We Bought a Zoo. It was directed by Cameron Crowe following a rewrite of the original adaptation written by Aline Brosh McKenna. The film, starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson, was released in the U.S. and other major territories on 23 December 2011, and in the UK on 16 March 2012. In the film adaptation the zoo is called Rosemoor Wildlife Park, and is situated in the United States. The story also differs in that Mee buys the zoo after the death of his wife, whereas in fact she died aged 40 of a brain tumour several months after the purchase. Mee and his children have cameo roles within the film.
Dartmoor Zoological Park has over 70 different animal species, including some endangered and critically endangered species. The zoo has a breeding programme with common marmosets, tapir, slender-tailed meerkats, kafue lechwe and wallaby.
Mammals Amur tiger, African lion, jaguar, Carpathian lynx, grey wolves, Iberian wolves, European bear, Syrian bear, Asian short-clawed otters, Raccoon, Vervet monkeys, Common marmosets, Ring-tailed coati, Slender-tailed meerkats, tapir, capybara, Kafue lechwe, Grants zebra, sugar gliders, lesser hedgehog tenrec, Parma wallabies, Bennett's wallabies, Reeves muntjac, Fallow deer, domestic rabbits, raccoon dogs, reindeer, Azara's agouti, African pygmy goats and red fox.
Birds Ostrich, greater rhea, white-cheeked turaco, avocets, Indian runner ducks, Helmeted guinea fowl, white-naped crane, great horned owl, great grey owl, burrowing owl, European eagle owl, striated caracara, himalayan monal, and golden pheasant.
Reptiles Red tailed boa constrictor, royal python, corn snake, milk snake, Western hog nose snake, blue spiky lizard, blue tongued skink, bearded dragon, crested gecko, electric blue gecko and yellow headed day gecko.
Amphibians African bullfrog, poison dart frog, golden mantella frog, axolotl.
Invertebrates Sun beetle, leaf insects, Mcklay's spectre, giant thorny stick insect, orange headed cockroaches, Indian ornamental tarantula, Brazilian black tarantula, Chilean rose tarantula, tailless whip scorpion, and tiger land snails.
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- Stubbs, Hannah (31 July 2016). "Dartmoor lynx recaptured after three weeks on the run from zoo". The Independent. INM. ISSN 0951-9467. OCLC 185201487. Retrieved 4 November 2016.
- We Bought a Zoo at the Internet Movie Database
- "Hollywood star playing me was 'beyond surreal'". This is North Devon. 19 July 2012. Retrieved 2012-12-14.