Port Lympne Wild Animal Park

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Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve
Date opened1976
LocationLympne, Kent, England (South Kent)
Land area600 acres (240 ha)
No. of animals650+
No. of species50+

Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve near the town of Hythe in Kent, England is set in 600 acres (2.4 km2) and incorporates the historic Port Lympne Mansion, and landscaped gardens designed by architect Sir Herbert Baker, for Sir Philip Sassoon.

The estate with an Edwardian mansion near Lympne was purchased in 1973 by John Aspinall; the intent was to solve lack of space at the nearby Howletts Wild Animal Park. It was opened to the public in 1976. Since 1984 the animal parks have been owned by a charity (The John Aspinall Foundation, currently led by Damian Aspinall). The collection is known for being unorthodox, for the encouragement of close personal relationships between staff and animals, and for their breeding of rare and endangered species. The park now includes tigers, lions, leopards, gorillas, bears, giraffes and the UK’s largest herd of black rhinos. The facility also plans to release some of the animals into the wild.[1]

Royalty and many other famous people have stayed at the mansion at the centre of the park. The rooms are lavishly decorated and the landscaped gardens have views of Romney Marsh. Other accommodations are also provided in the Park, some in Lion Lodge, Tiger Lodge, Bear Lodge (glamping), Rhino Lodge, Treehouse Hotel, The Bubble, Hogdeer Creek, Giraffe Cottage, Giraffe Lodge (glamping), Pinewood (glamping), Wolf Lodge and Forest Hideaway.[2][3][4][5] The latest accommodation options are Lion Lodge and the 20-bedroom Giraffe Hall.[6]

The Dinosaur Forest[edit]

Opened in 2016 to coincide with the park's 40th birthday, the Dinosaur Forest spans three acres of ancient woodland, and features over 100 life sized and anatomically correct models. Rangers discuss the animal kingdom of millions of years ago. Visitors are invited to dig for fossils and try the "create your own dinosaur" activity.[7][8]

Animal collection[edit]

Gorilla at Port Lympne Reserve

Port Lympne houses many rare and endangered species and the largest breeding herd of black rhinoceros in the UK. As well as Siberian tigers, there are small cats, monkeys, Malayan tapirs, Barbary lions, African hunting dogs and many more, some of which are on the circular walk. There is also an open enclosure near some of the rhinos and colobus monkeys, and the zoo has an 'African Experience' safari trail where visitors are transported on specially modified vehicles around the park to view rhinoceros, giraffe, zebra, deer and wildebeest.

In 2000, a 27-year-old keeper was killed whilst working in the stall of a female Indian elephant called La Petite.[9]

In 2015, the Park moved its herd of Asian elephants following numerous deaths amongst them related to a persistent outbreak of a strain of herpes virus found in captive elephant populations. In 2005, after many years of stillbirths, two infant mortalities, and several premature adult fatalities, the first surviving mother-reared calf, Sittang, succumbed to the virus. This incident occurred one month after an adult female produced a stillborn calf and also perished. Port Lympne's remaining calf, May Tagu, who was born in April 2005, was transferred to Antwerp Zoo following the spate of deaths, along with her mother and one other cow. The remaining adults were moved to Terra Natura in Benidorm, Spain, where many other former Port Lympne elephants reside. This move has allowed the park to focus on its breeding African elephants. Three cows have been moved from Howletts Wild Animal Park, followed soon after by a bull named Kruger from Knowsley Safari Park. Howletts is home to the UK's largest herd of African elephants.

Introducing captive animals into the wild[edit]

According to a U.S. report, Damian Aspinall had purchased about a million acres in Africa and turned the area into a park in an attempt to protect gorillas whose numbers have been declining due to the loss of habitat and poaching.[10] The Foundation's web site however, clarifies this: "The Aspinall Foundation is working with the governments of the Congo-Brazzaville and the neighbouring state of Gabon to protect around one million acres within the unique savannah ecosystem of the Batéké Plateau. ... We have reintroduced over 60 gorillas back into the wild, including 22 who travelled from our Parks in Kent".[11] In a 2016 interview, Aspinall added that "we've reintroduced eight black rhinos into the wild" presumably, all born in Kent.[12]

A BBC report in 2014 stated that the Foundation managed two gorilla rescue and rehabilitation projects in Gabon and Congo, respectively.[13] A subsequent report stated that five of ten of the gorillas released in 2014 had been found dead soon after, possibly due to attacks by other gorillas.[14]

Tara Stoinski of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund made this comment on the television program 60 Minutes (aired 15 March 2015): "I think that humans have a very romantic notion of what the wild is like, and the wild is not a place where it is safe, and animals get to roam free and make choices". She wonders about the value of sending zoo-born animals to Africa and believes that it would be wiser for Aspinall to use his funds to save gorillas already in the wild.[15][16]

In a 2016 interview, Aspinall blamed one gorilla that the Foundation had released for killing the five others. He also complained about the negative publicity about the event. "What about the 60 we released that survived? There's no glory if you get it right. We get no press, no publicity - but boy, if anything goes wrong, they jump on you."[17]

The Park has also introduced other animals into the wild. However, a black rhino (called Zambezi), that was born and raised at the Park, died while being flown to Tanzania in June 2019. The rhino was part of a plan to repopulate the Serengeti. [18]

Animal Enclosures[edit]

The park is split into two sections; one allows visitors to walk around (or use golf buggies) to view animals in enclosures, such as primates and carnivores like big cats. The other is a safari park toured in open-sided trucks, divided into South American, Asian and African safari sections.[19] Nearly 90 different species of animals are kept at the 600 acre Park.[20]

Palace of the Apes[edit]

Gorilla at Palace of the Apes

Palace of the Apes is the world's largest gorillarium and home to a large breeding family group of Western lowland gorillas. In late 2018, the Park announced the death of "Britain's oldest" gorilla, Babydoll, which was age 57. At the time, a news report stated that Damian Aspinall, "whose father John created the Aspinall's casino empire, has dedicated his life to gorilla conservation".[21]

African Experience[edit]

The African Experience is approximately 100 acres in size and home to a wide variety of animals, including:

Asian experience[edit]

Smaller than the African experience, this is home to a wide variety of Asian animals, including:


South American experience[edit]

The smallest and newest of the 3 experiences this is home to the only spectacle bears in Kent and many more species of south American wildlife, including:

Discovery Zone[edit]

The park has a small area in the park called the Discovery Zone, home to a pair meerkats, pygmy marmosets, cockroaches, green basilisk lizard, false water cobra, green tree frog, tree python and several species of tortoise and tarantula. Due to difficulties the Discovery Zone is now[when?] closed to the public.

On television[edit]

The BBC children's television series Roar was filmed at both Port Lympne and Howletts Wild Animal Park, and was broadcast on BBC Two and the CBBC channel. The programmes went behind the scenes at the two parks, following the keepers as they tended to the animals.


  1. ^ https://www.ontheluce.com/uk-safari-port-lympne-giraffe-lodge/, ON SAFARI IN THE UK: GLAMPING AT PORT LYMPNE GIRAFFE LODGE
  2. ^ https://www.visitkent.co.uk/attractions/port-lympne-hotel-and-reserve-2376/, Hotel
  3. ^ https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/uk/kent-safari-park-port-lympne-reserve-tiger-lodge-hotel-treehouse-review-a7983521.html, PORT LYMPNE RESERVE: CAN A SAFARI IN KENT LIVE UP TO THE REAL THING?
  4. ^ https://www.kentonline.co.uk/features/port-lympne-competition/, Win an overnight stay at Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve
  5. ^ https://www.visitkent.co.uk/attractions/port-lympne-hotel-and-reserve-2376/, Hotel and Reserve
  6. ^ https://www.harpersbazaar.com/uk/travel/a23376008/run-with-wolves-in-this-unique-new-hotel-experience/, Run With Wolves
  7. ^ https://www.visitkent.co.uk/attractions/port-lympne-hotel-and-reserve-2376/, Hotel and Reserve
  8. ^ "Dinosaur Forest opens in time for school holidays". 28 March 2016.
  9. ^ BBC News Elephant Crushes Keeper "[1]"
  10. ^ https://www.cbsnews.com/news/zoo-gorilla-family-freed-to-wild-60-minutes/, Controversial conservationist Damian Aspinall wants to close all zoos, including his own, and free the animals to the wild. But is it a good idea?
  11. ^ https://www.aspinallfoundation.org/the-aspinall-foundation/working-around-the-world/congo-and-gabon/, Working on the Bateke Plateau
  12. ^ https://www.tatler.com/article/john-aspinall-david-aspinall-animal-kingdom, Meet Damian Aspinall, society's Dr Doolittle
  13. ^ https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-kent-28002427, Port Lympne's gorilla Djala and family join wild primates in Gabon
  14. ^ https://www.kentonline.co.uk/canterbury/news/five-gorillas-raised-in-kent-23035/, Damian Aspinall's heartbreak as five gorillas raised at Howletts in Bekesbourne near Canterbury and Port Lympne in Hythe are found dead in the wild
  15. ^ "The Horrifying 60 Minutes Story Activists Beg You Not to See". Awesome Ocean. 18 March 2015. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
  16. ^ https://www.cbsnews.com/news/zoo-gorilla-family-freed-to-wild-60-minutes/, Controversial conservationist Damian Aspinall wants to close all zoos, including his own, and free the animals to the wild. But is it a good idea?
  17. ^ https://www.tatler.com/article/john-aspinall-david-aspinall-animal-kingdom, Meet Damian Aspinall, society's Dr Doolittle
  18. ^ https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-kent-48812483, Black rhino dies on way to release in wild
  19. ^ https://www.kentonline.co.uk/hythe/news/party-for-louangos-first-birthday-204670/, Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve celebrates Louango the gorillas first birthday
  20. ^ https://www.ontheluce.com/uk-safari-port-lympne-giraffe-lodge/, ON SAFARI IN THE UK: GLAMPING AT PORT LYMPNE GIRAFFE LODGE
  21. ^ The Daily Telegraph 'Heartbreaking' final moments of Britain's oldest gorilla
  22. ^ Aspinall foundation.org
  23. ^ Aspinall foundation.org
  24. ^ Aspinall foundation.org

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°4′34″N 0°59′58″E / 51.07611°N 0.99944°E / 51.07611; 0.99944