Paignton Zoo

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Paignton Zoo Environmental Park
Paignton , Paignton Zoo, Flamingo Lake - - 1485186.jpg
Paignton Zoo flamingo lake
Date opened1923
LocationPaignton, Devon, England
Coordinates50°25′44″N 3°35′4″W / 50.42889°N 3.58444°W / 50.42889; -3.58444
Land area80 acres (32 ha)
No. of animalsOver 2000
No. of speciesOver 250
Major exhibitsMonkey Heights, Reptile Tropics, Crocodile Swamp

Paignton Zoo Environmental Park, is a zoo in Paignton, Devon, England. The zoo is part of South West Environmental Parks Ltd which is owned by the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust (WWCT). It is a combined zoo and botanic garden that welcomes over half a million visitors a year. WWCT also runs Living Coasts in Torquay, Devon and Newquay Zoo in Newquay, Cornwall. All three are registered charities.

Paignton Zoo has a collection of about 2,000 animals representing nearly 300 species. It also cultivates about 1,600 different species of plant. It currently employs over 100 permanent staff and an additional 120 seasonally. A registered educational and scientific charity, Paignton Zoo is committed to the highest standards of animal husbandry and welfare, to scientific research, education and the breeding and conservation of rare and endangered animal and plant species.


Paignton Zoo's collection of animals are categorised by the habitat they live in, and those habitats are represented by themed buildings and areas across the zoo.

Desert House[edit]

The Desert House is a walk-through glasshouse containing authentic desert plants such as cacti of various species. The animals kept in the Desert House include red-billed quelea, gila monsters, superb starlings, pancake tortoises, Guinea pigs and free-flying Princess of Wales parakeets, as well as a real termite mound.

Paignton Zoo Desert House Exhibit

Tropical Forest House[edit]

The Tropical Forest House displays reptiles and amphibians from tropical rain forests. These include Burmese pythons, Cuban crocodiles, saltwater crocodiles, boa constrictors, matamata turtles, dwarf caimans, green anacondas, tomistomas, tokay geckos and several species of poison dart frog. In 2018, Paignton Zoo introduced its first Komodo dragon.

Forest Animals[edit]

This area is wooded with naturally occurring plants and trees. Animals on display include Asian lions, Sumatran tigers, red ruffed lemurs, ring-tailed lemurs, Bornean orangutans, great grey owls, wreathed hornbills, golden pheasants, western lowland gorillas, white-faced saki monkeys, Socorro doves, southern cassowary, Short-nosed echidna, bongo and lar gibbons.

A tiger in the Forest habitat

A North island brown kiwi arrived at the zoo in 2016, the only one in the UK.

Wetland Birds[edit]

Several species of waterfowl live around the moats surrounding the zoo's monkey islands, including dalmatian pelicans, Lesser adjutant stork, Marabou storks and several different species of ducks and geese such as Mandarin ducks, common shelducks and barnacle geese. Other waterfowl in the zoo's collection include Chilean flamingos, scarlet ibis and little egrets.

Savannah Animals[edit]

This area mostly displays animals from the African savannah, but also features some animals from other continents that live in a similar dry grassland habitat. The African animals include ostriches, Hartmann's mountain zebras, cheetahs, red river hogs, Rothschild's giraffes, African elephants, Barbary sheep and black rhinoceros. Animals from other continents include maned wolves, Bactrian camels, mishmi takin and collared peccaries.


Garden themes and plant collections include a broad collection of temperate hardy trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants arranged by habitat type, Collection of naturally occurring taxa of the genus Buddleja, A number of themed garden areas: Mediterranean Climatic Gardens, Medicinal Garden, Economic Garden, Tropical House, Sub-Tropical House, Desert House, Wildlife Garden and the first public vertical hydroponic display house.[1]

A butterfly in the wildlife garden


Paignton Zoo was one of the earliest combined zoological and botanical gardens in Britain and the first that was opened with education as its mission.[citation needed] It was founded by Herbert Whitley, initially as his private collection. Whitley was an early conservationist and a contemporary of people such as Sir Peter Scott and Jean Delacour, the famous French ornithologist. Paignton Zoo first opened to the public in 1923. After various name changes, it became Paignton Zoo Environmental Park in 1996.[2]

A five-year redevelopment programme, funded by the European Regional Development Fund, refurbished large parts of the Zoo and was completed in 2001. A new 10-year plan is now in place to redevelop the remaining areas to ensure that all animals are housed in modern enclosures of the highest standard.

Key dates in the zoo's history include:

  • 1923 – Paignton Zoo opened to the public
  • 1955 – Herbert Whitley died
  • 1994 - The zoo received a pair of Echidna via Bristol[3]
  • 1995 – European Regional Development Fund grant started redevelopment of Zoo
  • 1996 – became Paignton Zoo Environmental Park
  • 1998 – Zoo Keepers BBC TV documentary series broadcast
  • 2004 – Zoo Story ITV TV documentary series broadcast
  • 2005 – Monkey Heights, the state-of-the-art monkey exhibit, opened
  • 2006 – fire in the Giraffe House killed three giraffes
  • 2007 – rare black rhino calf Zuri born – the first such birth seen on the World Wide Web
  • 2008 – Crocodile Swamp exhibit opened
  • 2009 – Creatures Like Us Animal Planet TV documentary series broadcast, female echidna of the pair dies
  • 2012 - Dr David Stradling, who was the chairman of WWCT passed away after a long illness; the Zoo became the first in the UK to witness a giant Titan arum bloom[4]
  • 2013 - Great Gorilla Project - life-sized gorillas were placed across Devon for charity - £100,000 were raised[5]
  • 2015 - 10 years of ISO14001 environmental accreditation for Paignton Zoo
  • 2016 - Great Big Rhino Project raised £123,000 for conservation[6]


Paignton Zoo is a member of the British & Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA), the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA). Its gardens are members of PLANTNETWORK, Plant Heritage (formerly NCCPG) and Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI). It works with partner zoos and gardens in these organisations on the management of captive breeding and plant conservation programmes for endangered species.

Education and research[edit]

The Zoo has a large education team which teaches approximately 40,000 students each year from under-5s to post-16s, as well as adult community groups.

The Education Department was founded in 1961 and following that the Paignton Zoo Science Department was established in 1997, which was part of the redevelopment programme.[4] Now renamed the Field Conservation and Research Department, this has grown to become a well-known zoo science departments in Europe [4] , with staff engaged in a programme of projects within the Zoo, at WWCT's other sites in the UK, and at various sites overseas. Projects are carried out at 'A' level, undergraduate and post graduate level.


The Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust and its family of charitable attractions – Paignton Zoo Environmental Park, Living Coasts and Newquay Zoo – supports or is involved in conservation projects in the UK, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Botswana, Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Madagascar, Vietnam and Sulawesi in Indonesia.


Paignton Zoo was, based on visitor feedback, named by TripAdvisor as the third best zoo in the UK (behind Chester and Colchester) and ninth best zoo in Europe in 2014.[7][8]

The Zoo[edit]

In 2017, children's television channel CBBC, in partnership with DHX Media, announced that a 15-part comedy documentary show filmed at Paignton Zoo, from the point of view of animals, will air in the summer of the same year.[9] The series began airing on 15 August.


  1. ^ in 2009 the zoo together with a commercial partner (Valcent (EU) Ltd) installed the first of a new generation of innovative plant growing systems to support the growing of food for its animals in an energy efficient, local and nutritionally controlled way; see "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 10 April 2010. Retrieved 26 July 2009.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust – History retrieved 17 July 2012
  3. ^ "Short-nosed echidna | ZooChat". Retrieved 2017-06-04.
  4. ^ a b c "Paignton Zoo: Our History". Retrieved 2018-07-02.
  5. ^ "About the Great Gorillas, Torbay community conservation project". Retrieved 2018-07-02.
  6. ^ "Great Big Rhino Project - The Story of Dino Rhino | Student Placement, Torquay, Exeter, South Devon | The Training Partnership Limited". Retrieved 2018-07-02.
  7. ^ Clark, Daniel (5 August 2014). "Paignton Zoo named third best in UK". Herald Express. Local World. Retrieved 6 May 2015.
  8. ^ Hughes, Nancy. "Top 10 zoos in Europe, according to TripAdvisor". The Independent. Retrieved 5 August 2014.
  9. ^ "CBBC and DHX Media announce new series The Zoo". Retrieved 17 August 2017.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 50°25′44″N 3°35′4″W / 50.42889°N 3.58444°W / 50.42889; -3.58444