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|Location||Norton Grange, Norton Juxta Twycross, Leicestershire, England|
|Land area||80 acres (32 ha)|
|No. of animals||900+|
|No. of species||150+|
|Memberships||BIAZA, EAZA, WAZA|
|Major exhibits||Great apes, monkeys, Amur leopards, snow leopards, Bornean Longhouse|
Twycross Zoo is a medium to large zoo near Norton Juxta Twycross, Leicestershire. The zoo has the largest collection of monkeys and apes in the Western World, and in 2006 re-launched itself as "Twycross Zoo – The World Primate Centre".
The zoo attracted 644,033 visitors in 2019.
Twycross Zoo was established by Molly Badham and Nathalie Evans in 1963. The pair had been looking for a suitable site to expand their zoological collection, having outgrown their original site at Hints, Staffordshire where they had set up Hints Zoological Gardens in 1954. The zoo was initially based 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. Badham and Evans converted the 12 acres of gardens, outbuildings, stables and farm buildings into a zoo.
The zoo first opened to the public 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.
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 become known 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.
Molly Badham was an expert in primates in captivity 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.
Badham provided chimpanzees for PG Tips tea commercials (notably Mr Shifter), and one of the zoo's chimpanzees appeared in a Hammer Horror film with Peter Cushing. Chimpanzees were dressed up in clothes and trained to act like humans, even ride a bike. More recent management believed that the apes should not have been used in this way.
Twycross Zoo has 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 to exhibit all four types of great ape: gorilla, orangutan, chimpanzee and bonobo, the latter being the only bonobos in the country. The zoo currently houses four orangutans, five gorillas, 20 chimpanzees and 13 bonobos. 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 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.
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
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. This zone is also home to three different species of owl, two-toed sloths, tortoises, dik dik, bat-eared foxes, howler monkeys colobus monkeys, Eastern Black Rhinoceros and a new Sumatran Tiger.
Kingdom of the Apes
Also features is 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.
Life in the Trees
Life in the Trees exhibits 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 new Gibbon Forest. There are currently four different species of gibbon living here including siamangs, white-cheeked gibbons, pileated gibbons, and agile gibbons
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.
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-meter 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. Victoria Crowned Pigeons can also be found inside.
The Explorer Zone is also home to Pets@Twycross, where a number of domestic animals including West African pygmy goats, alpacas, miniature donkeys, rats, ferrets, guinea pigs and rabbits, as well as the rare Leicester Longwool sheep, are exhibited. 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 zoo's 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.
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 15,000 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
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 world's only bonobo sanctuary: Lola ya Bonobo
- The Association Européenne pour l’Etude et la Conservation des Lémuriens (AEECL) for research, community and conservation work on 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.
Allowing re-introduction of hybrid tiger controversy
Tara, a hand-reared supposedly Bengal tigress acquired from Twycross Zoo in July 1976, was trained by Billy Arjan Singh and reintroduced to the wild in Dudhwa National Park, India with the permission of India's then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, in an attempt to prove the experts wrong that zoo-bred hand-reared tigers could never be released in the wild with success. In the 1990s, some tigers from Dhudhwa were observed which had the typical appearance of Siberian tigers: white complexion, pale fur, large head and wide stripes. With recent advances in science it was subsequently found that Siberian tigers' genes had polluted the otherwise pure Bengal tiger gene pool of Dudhwa National Park. It was proved later that Twycross Zoo had been irresponsible and maintained no breeding records, and had given India a hybrid Siberian-Bengal tigress instead, although at the time, and taking into account information received regarding all of the tigers kept at Twycross Zoo, it was believed that Tara was a pure Bengal tiger at that time. Dudhwa tigers constitute about 1% of India's total wild population, but the possibility exists of this genetic pollution spreading to other tiger groups; at its worst, this could jeopardize the Bengal tiger as a distinct subspecies.
With the advent of co-ordinated breeding programmes for numerous species help in captivity and standardised electronic animal record keeping systems (ARKS), it is now possible to track the different subspecies that are managed and ensure that these are managed as pure subspecies. Twycross Zoo is now recognised as having a database of the animals in its care, both current and historically, that is comparable to any major zoological garden worldwide.
- "Twycross Zoo". zoos-uk.com. Zoos-UK. Retrieved 3 April 2011.
- "Thank you for a RECORD BREAKING 2019".
- Bell 2001, p. 1271.
- "Remembering zoo's early beginnings". Nuneaton News. Local World. 11 April 2008. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
- Badham, Molly; Evans, Nathalie; Lawless, Maureen (2000). Molly's Zoo: Monkey Mischief at Twycross Zoo. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-743-20832-1.
- "Twycross Zoo boss says chimps should never have been used in PG Tips adverts". Leicester Mercury. 15 January 2014.
- "Twycross Zoo".
- "Two rare Amur leopards born at Twycross Zoo in Leicestershire". BBC. 23 July 2014.
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