Twycross Zoo

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Twycross Zoo
Twycross Zoo Logo
The Zoo entrance, on the A444
Date opened 1963
Location Norton Grange, Norton Juxta Twycross, Leicestershire, England
Coordinates 52°39′10″N 1°31′47″W / 52.65278°N 1.52972°W / 52.65278; -1.52972Coordinates: 52°39′10″N 1°31′47″W / 52.65278°N 1.52972°W / 52.65278; -1.52972
Land area 80 acres (32 ha)[citation needed]
Number of animals 900+[1]
Number of species 150+[1]
Memberships BIAZA, EAZA, WAZA[citation needed]
Major exhibits Great Apes, Monkeys, Amur Leopards, Snow Leopards, Elephants, Bornean Longhouse

Twycross Zoo is a medium to large zoo near Norton Juxta Twycross, Leicestershire. The zoo has the largest collections of monkeys and apes in the Western World, and in 2006 re-launched itself as "Twycross Zoo – The World Primate Centre".

The zoo attracts over 500,000 visitors a year.[1]


Norton Grange 2007

Twycross Zoo was established in 1963 at the former rectory in the village of Norton Juxta Twycross. Having long since ceased functioning as a rectory, the house became a private residence known as Norton Grange. It was purchased in 1962 by Molly Badham, MBE and Nathalie Evans. The pair had been looking for a suitable site to expand their zoological collection, having outgrown their 3/4 acre site at Hints, Staffordshire where they had set up "Hints Zoological Society" in 1954. After the purchase of Norton Grange, Badham and Evans converted the 12 acres of gardens, outbuildings, stables and farm buildings into a zoo.

The zoo first opened its doors on Sunday 26 May 1963; the opening ceremony was performed by Jean Morton, a local television personality, accompanied by her popular children’s TV puppet show characters Tingha and Tucker.[2]

In 1972 the zoo became a charitable trust and is renowned as a specialist primate centre with a wide variety of primates including all four types of great ape, boasting the UK’s only group of bonobo. Twycross Zoo has always been famous for breeding primates and has recorded first UK births for thirteen different species including the bonobo, siamang, agile gibbon and woolly monkey, contributing to numerous conservation breeding programmes.

In 2000 Badham and Evans co-wrote Molly's Zoo, a book telling the story of the zoo's history.[citation needed]

Molly Badham[edit]

In her time, Molly Badham was a world leader in primate care and highly regarded for her work with chimpanzees. Molly achieved many ‘world firsts’ during her leadership, from breeding animals successfully through to being a founder member of the National Federation of Zoological Gardens of Great Britain and Ireland.

Molly even led to a step change in how animals were kept in zoos across the nation by giving monkeys access to grass when many zoos still kept them in sterile cages.

Animal exhibits[edit]

Twycross Zoo cares for around 500 animals of almost 150 species, including many endangered species. Renowned as a specialist primate zoo, it is the only zoo in the UK where you can see the bonobo, and the only place with all four types of great ape: gorilla, orangutan, chimpanzee and bonobo. Twycross Zoo has one of the largest collections of gibbons in Europe, and 37% of their animal collection is classed as near threatened, vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered by the IUCN. Many of the animals at Twycross Zoo are part of conservation breeding programmes which help ensure a future for species threatened with extinction.

The animal exhibits at Twycross Zoo are split into eight zones:

Conservation Way[edit]

Conservation Way is home to a family of critically endangered Amur leopards, the world’s rarest big cats. In June 2014, female Kristen gave birth to cubs Arina and Alexei after joining Twycross-born male Davidoff in 2013 as part of a European Association of Zoos and Aquariums breeding programme.

Endangered siamang gibbons can also be found in Conservation Way, plus the new mixed ‘African Plains’ exhibit which contains a group of Chapman's zebras and nyala.

Meerkats can be found here in their enclosure, which in 2013, was renovated to give the meerkats almost double the space that they had previously. Their new enclosure boasts a tall artificial termite mound upon which the meerkats like to do ‘sentry duty’. Ground level windows also enable young children better views of the meerkats.

Wet and Wild[edit]

This zone is home to Humboldt penguins, cranes and flamingos, along with the Borneo longhouse aviary. The Borneo Longhouse walkthrough exhibit was opened in 2007 by actor Brian Blessed and the Malaysian High Commissioner, His Excellency Datuk Abd Aziz Mohammed. The exhibit, built to replicate a traditional longhouse, provides a naturalistic environment for the birds which live there, and enables visitors to walk inside the aviary and see first-hand the importance of wetland habitats throughout the world. There are also a number of non-avian species to be found in the Wet and Wild zone including tapirs, capybaras, yellow-throated martens, bush dogs and prairie dogs.

Elephant Creek[edit]

Baby Asian elephant 2009

Elephant Creek’s main attraction is the group of five Asian elephants, forming Twycross Zoo's all-female herd. In 2010, ‘Uda Walawe’, a Sri Lankan themed elephant walkway and habitat which goes around the perimeter of the elephant enclosure enabling visitors to see the animals from many different angles, was opened. During the drier months, the elephants also have access to a large grass paddock where visitors can see them from the walkway, which was raised to improve viewing opportunities in mid-2014.

The World of Small Monkeys house is also in Elephant creek, and houses a number of tamarins and marmosets.

This zone is also home to three different species of owl, two-toed sloths, tortoises, dik dik, bat-eared foxes, howler monkeys and colobus monkeys.

Kingdom of the Apes[edit]

Twycross Zoo is the only zoo in the UK that is home to all four types of great ape and you can find three of these, bonobo, chimpanzee and gorilla in this zone.

Kingdom of the Apes is also where you will find the "Walking with Lemurs" exhibit - a walkthrough enclosure allowing visitors to enter the territory of the ring-tailed and black-and-white ruffed lemurs (two of the five lemur species the zoo keeps). Here visitors can learn about the threats to the natural environment in Madagascar as well as getting close to these energetic prosimians.

This zone is also home to Aldabra giant tortoises, one of the largest species of tortoises in the world. In 2013, this enclosure was extended and refurbished to offer the tortoises more space, plus new grass, sand and bark substrates to add enrichment for the animals. A bathing pool was also installed for the tortoises to use on hotter days.

Kingdom of the Apes is also home to a number of other animals including dholes, tufted deer, Darwin's rhea and further species of lemur including crowned lemurs.

Life in the Trees[edit]

An Orang-Utan in the zoo in 2008

Twycross Zoo is renowned for being a primate specialist centre and this zone is where you can see the majority of the zoo’s primates.

In this zone you will find a number of different species of both old- and new-world monkeys including Black-headed spider monkeys, red-faced spider monkeys, De Brazza’s monkeys, Spectacled Langurs, and L'Hoest’s monkeys to name just a few.

Twycross Zoo has one of the largest range of gibbons in Europe and these small apes can be seen in the Gibbon House. There are currently five different species of gibbon living here.

Life in the Trees houses orangutans. In 2014, a termite mound was built in the orangutan enclosure which is used as enrichment, as the holes in the mound can be filled with various different items for the orangutans to extract using tools that they prepare from branches and twigs.

This zone is also home to a number of other animals including otters, emus, kangaroos and parrots.

Explorer Zone[edit]

In 2014, the Explorer Zone underwent refurbishment and expansion and now includes a brand new adventure playground, gift shop, pizzeria, café and a Butterfly Forest.

Butterfly Forest is a 600 square-metre walk-through exhibit and was designed by Twycross Zoo staff. Visitors follow a winding path through a heavily planted setting where they can see hundreds of different butterflies and witness the life cycle, from chrysalis to butterfly in the dedicated hatching cabinets.

In September 2014 a number of insects that could previously be found in the ‘Minibeasts’ exhibit were moved into the Butterfly Forest including giant millipedes and stick insects.

The Explorer Zone is also home to Pets@Twycross where you can find a number of domestic animals including goats, alpacas, donkeys, rats, ferrets, guinea pigs and rabbits, as well as the rare Leicester Longwool breed of sheep. There are also a number of reptiles here including corn snakes and tortoises.


The free to enter Himalaya Visitor Centre was opened in 2010 and is the entrance to the zoo.The zoos main gift shop and 300 seat restaurant is located here. The restaurant overlooks a Himalayan mountain scene which is the enclosure for a family of endangered snow leopards.

Twycross Zoo’s conference facilities are also found here, with the 100 capacity Windows on the Wild Conference room overlooking a wild habitat exhibit that is home to wallabies and muntjac deer. Windows on the Wild is used regularly for both corporate and social functions.

Nature Reserve[edit]

Twycross Zoo has its very own Nature Reserve which is free to enter. This large reserve provides a safe and secure home for native bats, birds, insects and small mammals.


Twycross Zoo is home to an award- winning Education Department. Amongst others, the Zoo holds the Learning Outside the Classroom Quality Badge, all sessions are curriculum linked and all are designed to best engage all age groups.

The zoo teaches over 30,000 school children per year in four purpose built classrooms, each designed around a different theme: infant classroom, rainforest room,the illegal wildlife trade and the tertiary lecture room.

Conservation and breeding[edit]

In 2006 Twycross Zoo established the Conservation Welfare Fund to make a positive contribution to animal conservation and improve animal welfare worldwide.

Since its creation it has contributed to over 55 conservation and welfare projects from 27 different countries around the world. As well as financial support Twycross Zoo provides expertise in animal and veterinary care, enclosure construction and design and behavioural welfare.

Twycross Zoo currently supports the following conservation projects:

  • Fauna and Flora International for their Cao Vit Gibbon Project
  • Ape Action Africa to support the work of the ape sanctuary in Cameroon
  • Wildlife Vets International for work with Amur leopards in the Russian Far East
  • Friends of Bonobos with continued support for the worlds only bonobo sanctuary: Lola ya Bonobo
  • The Association Européenne pour l’Etude et la Conservation des Lémuriens (AEECL) for research, community and conservation work Madagascar’s endangered lemur habitat
  • Awely for their community education team the Greencaps working in bonobo territory in the Congo

In February 2014 Twycross Zoo partnered with the United Nations Great Ape Survival Partnership to assist them in their goal to ensure the long-term survival of great apes and their habitat in Africa and Asia.

Twycross Zoo is a member of BIAZA (British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums), EAZA (European Association of Zoos and Aquariums) and WAZA (World Association of Zoos and Aquariums) and members of staff chair, advise and are members of a number of specialist committees within the international zoo framework.

In June 2014 two critically endangered Amur Leopard cubs were born. The father, Davidoff was one of two Amur cubs born at the zoo in 2006. [3]

In October 2014, a baby Vicuna (member of the camel family) was born at the zoo [4]


External links[edit]

Media related to Twycross Zoo at Wikimedia Commons