Paignton Zoo

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Paignton Zoo
Date opened1923
LocationPaignton, Devon, England
Coordinates50°25′44″N 3°35′4″W / 50.42889°N 3.58444°W / 50.42889; -3.58444Coordinates: 50°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 exhibitsReptile Tropics, Crocodile Swamp, Ape Centre, Lemur Wood, Monkey Heights Edit this at Wikidata

Paignton Zoo is a zoo in Paignton, Devon, England. The zoo is part of South West Environmental Parks Ltd which is owned by the charity Wild Planet Trust, formerly known as the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust. The charity also runs Newquay Zoo in Newquay, Cornwall, and ran Living Coasts in Torquay, Devon until its closure in 2020.

The zoo is a registered educational and scientific charity that has a collection of about 2,000 animals representing nearly 300 species, and it also cultivates about 1,600 different species of plant.[citation needed] It currently[when?] employs over 100 permanent staff and an additional 120 seasonally.[citation needed]


The zoo has a large collection of animals (mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians) across many different, naturally-themed exhibits.

Some notable species, many endangered, include: Western lowland gorillas, Bornean orang-utans, Asiatic lions, Northern giraffes, Sumatran tigers, Cuban crocodiles, red pandas, black rhinos, Hartmann's mountain zebras, maned wolves, cheetahs, Sulawesi crested macaques, Chilean flamingos, Short-beaked echidna, red-ruffed lemurs and the South West's only Komodo dragon. The zoo is also home to the UK's only Northern brown kiwi.


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. 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 French ornithologist. Paignton Zoo first opened to the public in 1923. After various name changes, it became Paignton Zoo Environmental Park in 1996.[1]

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[when?] in place to redevelop the remaining areas to ensure that all animals are housed in modern enclosures of the highest standard.[citation needed]


Great Gorillas Project 2013
  • 1923 – Paignton Zoo opened to the public
  • 1940 – Miniature railway opened[2]
  • 1955 – Herbert Whitley died
  • 1995 – European Regional Development Fund grant started redevelopment of Zoo
  • 1996 – Became Paignton Zoo Environmental Park[citation needed]
  • 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
  • 2008 – Crocodile Swamp exhibit opened
  • 2012 – Dr David Stradling, chairman of WWCT, died; the zoo became the first in the UK to witness a giant Titan arum bloom[3]
  • 2013 – In the Great Gorilla Project, life-sized gorillas were placed across Devon for charity and £100,000 was raised[4]
  • 2016 – Great Big Rhino Project raised £123,000 for conservation[5]
  • 2019 – The Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust is re-named and re-branded as the Wild Planet Trust
  • 2019 – Duchess, the zoo's only African Elephant, died[6]
  • 2020 _ Miniature railway closed[7]


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 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.[citation needed]

The Education Department was founded in 1961 and the Paignton Zoo Science Department was established in 1997, during the redevelopment programme.[3] Now renamed the Field Conservation and Research Department, it has grown to become a well-known zoo science departments in Europe,[3] with staff engaged in a programme of projects within the zoo, at Wild Planet Trust's other sites in the UK, and at various sites overseas. Projects are carried out at 'A' level, undergraduate and post graduate level.[8][9][10]

Botanical gardens[edit]

Titan Arum Bloom at Paignton Zoo 2018

Garden themes and plant collections include a broad collection of temperate hardy trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants arranged by habitat type. The indoor growing areas allow the zoo to grow plants from all over the world, ranging from small critically endangered cactus in the desert house, through to the massive Titan arum, giant bamboo and giant water lilies located in the tropical houses.[citation needed]


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.[11][12]

CBBC's The Zoo[edit]

In 2017, children's television channel CBBC, in partnership with DHX Media, announced that a episodic comedy show filmed at Paignton Zoo, England, from the point of view of animals, would air in the summer of the same year.[13]


  1. ^ Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust – History retrieved 17 July 2012
  2. ^ Henderson, Guy (21 January 2022). "Paignton Zoo's much-loved miniature Jungle Express train has gone for good". Devon Live. Reach. Retrieved 22 January 2022.
  3. ^ a b c "Paignton Zoo: Our History". Retrieved 2 July 2018.
  4. ^ "About the Great Gorillas, Torbay community conservation project". Retrieved 2 July 2018.
  5. ^ "Great Big Rhino Project - The Story of Dino Rhino | Student Placement, Torquay, Exeter, South Devon | The Training Partnership Limited". Retrieved 2 July 2018.
  6. ^ Cooper, Joel (14 July 2019). "Paignton Zoo break heartbreaking news as Duchess the African Elephant dies". Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  7. ^ Paignton Zoo axes the Jungle Express after eight decades Heritage Railway issue 290 18 February 2022 page 33
  8. ^ "Postgraduate • Wild Planet Trust". Wild Planet Trust. Retrieved 15 August 2019.
  9. ^ "Undergraduate • Wild Planet Trust". Wild Planet Trust. Retrieved 15 August 2019.
  10. ^ "Primary • Wild Planet Trust". Wild Planet Trust. Retrieved 15 August 2019.
  11. ^ Clark, Daniel (5 August 2014). "Paignton Zoo named third best in UK". Herald Express. Local World. Retrieved 6 May 2015.[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ Hughes, Nancy. "Top 10 zoos in Europe, according to TripAdvisor". The Independent. Retrieved 5 August 2014.
  13. ^ "CBBC and DHX Media announce new series The Zoo". Retrieved 17 August 2017.

External links[edit]