West Midland Safari Park
Giraffes at the park
|Date opened||17 April 1973|
|Location||Spring Grove, Bewdley, Worcestershire, England|
|Land area||200 acres (81 ha)|
|Number of animals||600+|
|Number of species||165|
|Annual visitors||650,000 visitors +|
|Major exhibits||Realm of the Lions, Kingdom of the White Lions, Realm Of The Indian Rhino, Tiger Ridge, Asian Lowlands, Dhole Woods, African Plains, Cheetah Plains, Elephant Valley, Twilight Cave, Creepy Crawlies, Flooded Forest, Lemur Woods, African Village, Meerkat Mayhem, Penguin Cove, Mark O’Shea's Reptile World, Sea lion Theatre, SeaQuarium, Hippo Lakes, Santa Safari, Spooky Spectacular, Firework Festival, Lorikeet Landing.|
The park holds over 165 species of exotic animals. The drive-through 4-mile (6.4 km) safari contains about 600 animals from around 40 different species from Europe, Africa, North America and Asia. The park also includes a large Adventure Theme Park, a walk-through Discovery Trail including reptiles, invertebrates, fish, bats, penguins and sea lions and a walk-through African Village with the largest Lemur woods in the UK and a large meerkat mayhem. There is also the newly refurbished Spring Grove House, the grounds of which the park is built in.
The park's wide variety of immersive animal exhibits together with a theme park and corporate facilities means it offers facilities for all types of guest including groups and school children.
The park is a member of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) and the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA). The dhole and cheetah enclosures in the drive-through safari are part of a larger heathland Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) which the park is restoring.
The park contains the largest pride of white lions, the largest coalition of cheetah, the largest pod of common hippopotamus, the largest mob of meerkats, and the largest lemur walk-through exhibit in the UK. It was also the first park in the UK to have the African big five game animals.
The 100-acre (40 ha) safari drive-through is a 4 miles (6.4 km) drive. Visitors can drive their own cars through the Safari or pay to go on one of the guided mini bus tours which are available throughout the day.
- African Reserve
The dhole enclosure is not only home to the endangered wild dogs, but is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for preservation because it is lowland heathland which is also becoming increasingly rare in the UK.
- Asian Reserve
This Reserve area is home to Asian animals including barasingha, blackbuck, chital, lowland anoa, sambar deer, Philippine spotted deer, and Asian water buffalo. This area is also home to the greater one horned rhinoceros as well as little owls, white tigers and black rabbits.
- Kingdom of the White Lions
In 2004, West Midland Safari Park opened this exhibit with one male and 3 females from sister park Ongava Game Reserve in Namibia. This was the UK’s first pride of African white lions. In 2007, four cubs were born in the space of nine hours, doubling the size of the pride. These were the first white lions born in the UK, and were followed two weeks later by two more cubs. White lions are not a separate species than the better known tawny coloured African lion, just a different colour variation that rarely appears.
- Tiger Ridge & Tiger Reserves
- Cheetah Plains
- African Wild Dog Reserve
- Realm of the Lions
2013 saw the update of this huge drive-through exhibit with a central pride rock, plenty of savannah theming with a water feature and a brand new state of the art lion house.
- Eurasian Reserve
- Elephant Valley
Elephant Valley is home to the safari Park's African elephants. As of 2012, the Safari Park was home to only two female elephants. In May 2014 Elephant Valley became home to a new arrival baby male named Sutton. Sutton was named after Stephen Sutton after an overwhelming majority voted on the parks Facebook page. Sutton is the first male African elephant successfully born through AI in the UK.
- Other Species
- Cape Buffalo
- Fallow Deer
- Przewalski's Horse
- Sika Deer
Discovery Trail consists of a mix of outdoor and indoor exhibits, and includes friendly animal encounters, reptile talks, sea lion shows and penguin feeds throughout the day.
- Friendly Animal Encounters
Animal encounters that take place in the Discovery Trail let visitors get up close and personal with small exotic creatures, under the observation of their learning officers. Animals that take part in these encounters include ferrets, brown rats, degus, lesser hedgehog tenrecs, and long-tailed chinchillas.
- Creepy Crawlies
Creepy Crawlies is the park's invertebrate house, and contains a small range of creepy crawlies including goliath bird-eater spider, leafcutter ants, locusts, Madagascar hissing cockroaches, and scorpions.
- Mark O'Shea's Reptile World
The park's reptile house is named after the famous herpetologist Mark O'Shea. O'Shea also makes appearances at the park, delivering Discover Reptile talks on the stage outside the Reptile World most Sundays, giving guests the chance to learn more about some of the park's reptiles. Reptiles in this exhibit include alligator snapping turtle, American alligator, amethystine python, beaded lizard, black rat snake, Borneo short-tailed python, Cuban crocodile, Egyptian cobra, green anaconda, green and black poison dart frog, green tree python, Jamaican boa, red-tailed green ratsnake and reticulated python.
- Sea Lion Theatre
The sea lion theatre is a 525 seat venue that allows the park's visitors the chance to see the park's California sea lions being trained by their keepers to display their intelligence and adaptations to aquatic life.
SeaQuarium is the park's aquarium, containing a wide variety of exotic fish. This is also the park's chain attraction. Some of the animals here include Bermuda blue angelfish, clownfish, common carp, emperor angelfish, gold-spotted spinefoot, honeycomb moray, long-spine porcupinefish, orangespine unicornfish, orbicular batfish, pangas catfish, queen coris, red-bellied pacu, red-bellied piranha, Red Sea sailfin tang, redtoothed triggerfish, reef stonefish, Siberian sturgeon, snowflake moray, spotted sailfin suckermouth catfish, spotted unicornfish, tambaqui, Vlamingii tang, white-spotted puffer, zebra moray.
- Twilight Cave
- Lorikeet Landing
New for November 2014, a large walk-through Rainbow lorikeet exhibit is opening.
Near the Adventure Theme Park is a large lake, home to the largest pod of hippos in the UK.
African Village & Lemur Woods
- African Village
The African Village is an interactive walk-through area, allowing visitors to see African village wildlife and a replica African Village Home. The African Village contains a walk-through area containing Cameroon sheep, Pygmy goats and Somali sheep. The exhibit is also hole to a large mob of meerkats.
- Lemur Woods
In the wooded area towards the rear of the amusement park is the largest walk-through lemur exhibit in the UK. The lemurs are free to roam around the walkway and the woods. The three species of lemur on display in the woods are red-bellied lemur, ring-tailed lemur, and white-headed lemur.
Rides and attractions
There are many rides and attractions found in the amusement park. Wristbands can be bought from the kiosk to allow an unlimited number of rides. However, tickets are also available for purchase for individual rides.
- Cubs Kingdom
Cubs Kingdom contains seven rides and attractions for young children to use, which are Animal Ark, Flying Pandas, Moroccan Magic Carpet, Red Baron, Rhino Roundabout, Serengeti Gallopers, and Simba Kiddies Train.
- Family Fun
Some rides are designed for the whole family, from youngsters to the elderly. These rides are African Big Apple Coaster, Congo Carousel, Desert Convoy, Dr Umboto's Catacombs, Dune Dashers, Flying Lion Kings, Jumbo Parade, Jungle Cat Dodgems, Jungle Swings, Rescue Fire Rangers, Shark Island, and Slippery Snake Slide.
- Thrill Rides
Thrill rides at the park are Black Fly, Pirate Ship, Rhino Rollercoaster, Twister Coaster, Venom Tower Drop, Wild River Rafting and Zambezi Water Splash.
Found throughout the amusement area are many eateries. These include cafes, such as Explorer's Cafe, fast food restaurants, such as Botswana Burger Company and food stalls that are dotted around the rides.
There are a number of gift shops found in the amusement area, and these sell a number of products, from guide books to soft toys.
- Safari Express Railway
A 15 in (381 mm) narrow gauge railway runs between the main car park and the amusement area. Services are operated by a 2-8-0 steam outline diesel locomotive, built by Severn Lamb in 1979. The engine usually runs chimney first to the amusement area, running tender first on the return trip. This railway, when operating, provides a scenic ride between the amusement area and the car park. The track makes its way along the back of the walkways and crosses access-roads via level crossings. The line then rounds Hippo Lakes before arriving at its terminus adjacent to the African Big Apple Coaster.
The early years
The park was opened by Jimmy Chipperfield on 17 April 1973 and at the time hosted a few ex-circus animals. The bears in the park were housed within what is now known as Elephant Valley. But back in the 1970s it was called sandstone, the bears kept were the European Brown Bear there are no records of what happened to the bears, but the elephant house now stands where the bear house was. The 1970s also saw the park take on 'Boat Safari' like most stately homes taking up opening to the public and having a safari park in their back garden they also had boat rides on lakes with an island which would house either chimpanzees or gorilla. West Midland Safari Park had a 'Chimp Island'; the chimps were later moved to another zoo in the Midlands. With this people stopped using the boat rides and subsequently the boating lake was closed and has since been left for nature to take back. The early 1970s saw the arrival of the dolphinarium to the park but this was a travelling show and took up home in the sea lion theatre which still stands today, the dolphins later returned to Margate.
With the new millennium came new zoo standards. The park saw its first new animal exhibit for some time with the arrival of four African white lions in 'Kingdom of the White Lions' in 2004. This was where the white tigers were housed. But where moved to the tiger reserves and a year later in spring 2005 the controversial White Tiger Ridge opened with much enthusiasm from visitors. The park was the first safari park in the UK to have all five African big game animals. But with the removal of the park's leopards to Scotland this leaves the park with only four of the five.
Plans are in place to build a safari themed hotel and water park at the park. Work is set to start in Summer 2014 and completed in time for Spring 2016. There are also plans to give the Safari Park its own railway station on the Severn Valley Railway. 
West Midland Safari Park is well known for its efforts in conservation. It is public in stating its intentions to create a collection of animals that are in need of help in the wild. The park has replaced many species of animal with a similar, but more endangered species. The park contains many animals that are on the IUCN's endangered or critically endangered list.
Ongava Game Reserve
Ongava Game Reserve is the ‘Sister Park’ to West Midland Safari Park in Namibia, it is on the boundary of the famous Etosha National Park and is the largest privately owned game reserve in Namibia. Established in 1991 by converting four livestock farms, the 170-square-mile (440 km2) Ongava Game Reserve is one of few private game reserves in South Africa with successful breeding populations of both black rhinoceros and white rhinoceros. Additionally, rare black-faced impala has been reintroduced to the reserve, and this now ranks as one of the largest and most important populations outside of Etosha. Large game such as Burchell’s Zebra, gemsbok, giraffe, eland, and springbok also inhabit the reserve.
In 2006 the managing directors of West Midland Safari Park officially opened the Ongava Research Centre, which focuses on research on rhinos, lions, and carrying capacity of the reserves. The centre has three full-time researchers who also work closely with the management of OGR, Save the Rhinos and the University of Cape Town. ORC is also regularly visited by Safari Staff for training. There are plans in place for the public to be able to take safari holidays at the reserves.
In 2001 West Midland Safari Park brought two Sea Life Centres in Rhyl and Weston-super-Mare from Merlin Entertainment, and created 'Seaquarium' conservation centres for rare sea wildlife. The original Seaquarium is still at the park.
The two female African elephants at the zoo were trained to wave the Union Jack flag when the Severn Valley Railway train carrying the Olympic torch for the 2012 Summer Olympics stopped by their enclosure.
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- "WWest Midlands Safari Park considers new railway station". BBC News Hereford & Worcester. 25 May 2011. Retrieved 21 July 2014.
- "Ongava Research Centre (ORC) & Namibian Wildlife Conservation Trust (NWCT)". wmsp.co.uk. West Midland Safari Park. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
- "Safari park's sea life move". worcesternews.co.uk. Worchster News. 25 October 2001. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
- "Flag-waving Elephants join Olympic torch relay". bbc.co.uk. BBC. 24 May 2012. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to West Midland Safari Park.|
- Official website
- Santa Safari Official Site
- Seaquarium Official Site
- Spring Grove House Official Site