Marwell Zoo

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Marwell Zoo
Marwell logo.png
Marwell Hall, March 30th 2016.jpg
Marwell Hall, March 2016
Date opened 1972
Location Owslebury, Hampshire, England, United Kingdom
Coordinates 50°59′35.39″N 1°16′39.85″W / 50.9931639°N 1.2777361°W / 50.9931639; -1.2777361Coordinates: 50°59′35.39″N 1°16′39.85″W / 50.9931639°N 1.2777361°W / 50.9931639; -1.2777361
Land area 140 acres (57 ha)
No. of animals 1707+ (2011)
No. of species 188 (2011)
Annual visitors 511,000 (2006)[1]
Memberships BIAZA,[2] EAZA,[3] WAZA,[4] IUCN[5]
Major exhibits Tropical World, Roof of the World, Into Africa, Heart of Africa, Life in the Trees, Wild Explorers, African Valley, Fur-Feathers-Scales.

Marwell Zoo is a 140-acre (57 ha) zoo situated at Owslebury near Winchester, in the English county of Hampshire. It is owned and run by the registered charity Marwell Wildlife. The zoo is home to over 1,200 animals of 135 species. The charity undertakes a range of educational and conservation activities, with a particular focus on Africa in addition to work from its base.


The zoo was founded by John Knowles, opening in 1972. It was one of the earliest zoos in Europe to place an emphasis on animal conservation.[citation needed] Within a few years of its establishment, it became an important breeding centre for several species, some (e.g. the Mongolian wild horse) already extinct in the wild, others (e.g. the snow leopard and Siberian tiger) close to extinction.[6]

The park is situated in the estate of Marwell Hall, a Grade I listed building originally built in 1320 by Walter Woodlock[7] and largely rebuilt in 1816 by William Long.[8] In the 1500s, the Hall belonged to the Seymour family, and there is a local tradition that Henry VIII married Jane Seymour there.[9] Between September 1941 and March 1944, Cunliffe-Owen Aircraft used the area (part of the Managing Director's personal estate) as an airfield to support the manufacture of military aircraft at its nearby factory in Eastleigh. After the end of World War II, the area was returned to agricultural use until the establishment of the zoo.[10][11]

In 1977, a giraffe called Victor tore a muscle in his leg, collapsed on his stomach, and was unable to get up. The press suggested that he had slipped while trying to mate and compared his situation to the splits.[12] All attempts to get him on his feet failed, and his plight became a major international news story. Portsmouth Dockyard made a hoist to attempt to raise him onto his feet. He died of a heart attack very shortly afterward in the arms of his keeper Ruth.[13] The publicity turned Marwell into a major tourist attraction, and interest was revived the following summer, when Victor's mate, Dribbles, gave birth to a female calf named Victoria.

In 1999, the zoo lost all of its penguins (22 African and 5 macaroni) to avian malaria.[14] There were other cases in the UK but Marwell was the only zoo to lose its entire colony, which had arrived only two and a half years before to stock the new Penguin World exhibit. After consulting with experts, the exhibit was restocked with Humboldt penguins, which whilst endangered in the wild, are present in greater numbers in captivity.

In 2003, after constructing a new enclosure for critically endangered Amur leopards, a female leopard (Jade) escaped and fell from a tree to her death after being shot with a tranquilizer dart[15] only days before the official opening of the exhibit. Following a replacement after the death of Jade, in 2005 the first cub born to the new Amur leopard pair, Amirah, escaped into the male's enclosure and was killed by her father.[15] On 18 November 2007, a female Amur leopard cub (named Kiska following a public vote) was born as a result of a European Conservation Breeding Programme.

In 2007, the park was voted in an online poll of Hampshire residents as the place they were most proud of.[16]

Both the park and charity changed their name to "Marwell Wildlife" in April 2009,[17] to promote awareness of conservation work beyond the park. The charity had previously been called the Marwell Preservation Trust, and the park had been Marwell Zoological Park.

Animal exhibits[edit]

The park includes a number of themed areas, including:

Penguin Cove


The zoo's exhibits[20] include (in addition to those mentioned above in the Animal Exhibits section):

In particular, Marwell houses the largest collection of ungulates in a UK zoo[citation needed], including:



A herd of scimitar oryx grazing

The main, current Marwell Wildlife conservation programmes include Managing Biodiversity in Hampshire, assisting Grevy's zebra and its ecosystem in Kenya; supporting threatened species in Zimbabwe and managing the population of small, vulnerable populations; and reintroducing the scimitar-horned oryx to the Sahara.[21]

The zoo has been involved in reintroducing wild horse, golden lion tamarin, roan antelope and scimitar oryx to the wild. The oryx was extinct in the wild, but more than 200 calves have been born and reared at the zoo since 1972 and many of these have been released back to the Sahara with animals from Whipsnade Zoo and Edinburgh Zoo.

The charity carries out a range of research and education activities.

Marwell Zoo has had notable success breeding various endangered animals including: black and white ruffed lemur (critically endangered), scimitar-horned oryx, Amur leopard[22] (critically endangered) and snow leopard.[23] In July 2015 a critically endangered Sulawesi-crested macaque baby was born.[24]


The family attraction additionally includes five children’s playgrounds, various food kiosks, a picnic lodge, and Bushtucker Bites, as well as picnic areas on Marwell Hall lawn.[25] There is a hotel adjacent to the park.[26]

Wild Explorers Playground at Marwell Zoo, Hampshire, England

The Marwell Wildlife Railway (MWR), is a 15 in (381 mm) gauge railway operating around part of the zoo site. It is commonly known as Marwell Zoo Railway, although its locomotive is lettered MWR to reflect the formal name. The line runs for a little less than a kilometre, and is served by two stations, Treetops Junction and Park End Halt. The line opened in 1987[27] and still operates using the original rolling stock. It operates daily during school holidays, and at weekends for the rest of the spring, summer, and autumn. It is usually closed during the winter months.[28]

Marwell Wildlife Railway

Rolling stock on the railway was supplied by Severn Lamb. The only locomotive is a 2-6-0 steam-outline diesel hydraulic engine named Princess Anne.[29] There are four passenger coaches, each capable of seating 16 adult passengers. The coaches are roofed, but open-sided. There is a 4-wheel open wagon for maintenance trains.


  1. ^ "Marwell Wildlife New Visitor Record Set". Marwell Wildlife. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  2. ^ "BIAZA Find a Zoo". British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  3. ^ "EAZA Member Zoos & Aquariums". European Association of Zoos and Aquaria. Archived from the original on 19 August 2010. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  4. ^ "Zoos and Aquariums of the World". World Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  5. ^ "Members Database". IUCN. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  6. ^ Knowles, John (2009). My Marwellous Life: In Zoos and Conservation. Book Guild Publishing. ISBN 1-84624-365-3. 
  7. ^ "About Marwell Hall". Marwell Wildlife. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  8. ^ Page, William (1908). A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 3. Victoria County History. pp. 332–335. 
  9. ^ "Owslebury". Hampshire County Council. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  10. ^ "Wartime secrets of Marwell Hall". Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  11. ^ "Marwell Hall Airfield". Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  12. ^ "South Today > Tell Tom > 1977 - Victor the giraffe". BBC. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  13. ^ Victor the giraffe. BBC. 6 October 2008. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  14. ^ "UK penguins struck by avian malaria". BBC News. October 11, 1999. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  15. ^ a b "Rare cub ventures into public eye". BBC News. 28 February 2008. Retrieved 12 December 2012. 
  16. ^ "Marwell Zoo voted pick of the poll". citylocal. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  17. ^ "You can call us Marwell Wildlife". Marwell Wildlife. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  18. ^ "Marwell Wildlife Penguin Cove". Marwell Wildlife. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  19. ^
  20. ^ "Marwell Wildlife Animal Inventory 2011" (PDF). Marwell Wildlife. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  21. ^ "Marwell Wildlife Conservation". Marwell Wildlife. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ See Marwell entry at Hampshire's Miniature And Narrow Gauge Railways.
  28. ^ Marwell Wildlife Railway official website.
  29. ^ Locomotive details at Miniature Railway World website.

External links[edit]

Media related to Marwell Zoo at Wikimedia Commons