There are many zoos in Yorkshire displaying animals, birds and aquatic creatures from all over the world.
One of the largest zoos in the county is the Yorkshire Wildlife Park located just south of Doncaster. This 70-acre site, which only opened in 2009, has added many animals and conservation projects throughout its short history. The most recent development has been the Project Polar Reserve, which saw the arrival of Victor the Polar bear, a fifteen year old male. He is the first of three bears to come to the reserve and is the only place in the UK where these animals can be seen. It lives in a specially created 6500 sq m pool, which is eight meters deep and has an island in the middle.
In 2010 the park rescued thirteen lions from a Romanian zoo, which were released into the Lion country enclosure on the site. Visitors can enjoy lemurs, leopards, meerkats, tigers, monkeys and giraffes amongst others in different themed areas of the zoo. The venue also hosts special talks and tours, complete with entertainment and fireworks during the evening.
If it is a break you need from the thrill seeking rides at Flamingo land near Malton, the theme park also houses one of the most visited and established zoos in Yorkshire. The site has a wide variety of animals and birds to view, including the endangered White rhinoceros, which has become a victim of habitat loss and civic unrest in its native North Africa. The Humboldt penguin pool is also a popular attraction amongst younger visitors, while the flamingos, which were one of the first birds brought to the zoo when it was first opened in 1959, are also a prominent feature. Flamingo land has played an important part in their worldwide conservation ever since and two different species are on view. There are also other zoo animals, reptiles, tortoises and farm animals to enjoy.
Over on the east coast near Bridlington lies another combined zoo, Sewerby Hall. Along the cliff tops, sika deer, Shetland sheep llamas and capuchin monkeys can be seen roaming their paddocks, while aviaries give visitors a close up view of cockatiels, budgerigars and wildfowl. One of the biggest highlights is feeding time at the penguin pool, around 3pm, where they can be seen swimming after fish thrown into the water. Look out also for Eckie the parrot, who can be heard mimicking sounds and words to visitors as they pass.
Further up the coast is Filey Bird Garden and animal park, which opened in 2008. This five acre site has a mixture of domestic animals, such as ponies, goats, donkeys and Ouessants, the smallest sheep in the world. There are also aviaries full of birds, including parrots, owls and pheasants plus ducks, geese and turkeys wandering the park. The site also has a wild nature element with a wildlife pond and nature trails.
Another zoo and bird garden to be found in Yorkshire is Lotherton Hall, located just off the A1 near Aberford. It is set in the hall’s expansive grounds and has 200 species of rare and endangered birds, making it one of the largest collections in the country. There are flamingos here too, along with birds of prey, such as Snowy owls. The African enclosure houses exotic creatures, such as cassowaries and an Andean Condor, the world’s largest land bird. Native red deer can also be spotted in the surrounding parkland.
Down the road at one of Yorkshire’s most prominent stately homes, Harewood House is another extensive collection of birds. Along with the obligatory penguins are numerous parakeets, perching birds, wildfowl and thrushes from right around the world. The estate also plays an important role for birds in the wild. In 1999 the surrounding woodlands were chosen to be the location for the re-introduction of Red Kites in Yorkshire. These wild birds of prey had become extinct in England by the end of the 19th Century, but now thanks to this re-introduction program led by Harewood House and the RSPB there are now 300 red kites in Yorkshire. These distinctive birds of prey are now a frequent sight over the skies of Leeds and are their population is increasing.
Tropical World in the same city is home to numerous birds and animals from warmer climes. There are many species of butterflies and moths to admire in a specially created environment. Tropical birds are also present along with terrapins and a recently added crocodile pool. One of the star attractions, thanks to a certain TV advert, is the meerkat family. There are other animals on view such as fish, snakes, bats and lemurs.
Further South, another attraction, the Tropical Butterfly house Wildlife and Falconry centre in Sheffield has an extensive collection of exotic butterflies, insects, reptiles and birds. Amongst these are spectacled caimans, Egyptian fruit bats and mouse lemurs, the smallest primates in the world. In the falconry centre there are regular demonstrations with owls, vultures and a star raven who can paint!
Cannon Hall Farm, near Barnsley has a wide range of domestic animals on display. During the spring and summer months they can be seen rearing their young. The farm has sheep, Highland cattle Shetland ponies and rare Kune Kune pigs from New Zealand. Uniquely throughout the day there are various sheep and ferret races to watch, along with feeding demonstrations and talks on the different animals.
Temple Newsam in East Leeds is one of the largest working rare breeds farm in Europe and has over 400 types of animals, including goats, cattle, pigs and poultry. In the collection are the rare Golden Guernsey goat and the only Vaynol cattle in the world. There are also many craft demonstrations and workshops amongst the estate’s cobbled courtyards to discover.
If things that dive and swim are of more interest, then a trip eastwards to The Deep in Hull may be to your liking. Amongst the 3,500 fish in this museum’s aquariums are Europe’s only pair of green sawfish, a colony of Gentoo penguins and species of sharks. The museum also charts the story of the world’s oceans and the challenges facing them in the future.
The Sealife Centre in Scarborough has 50 displays of marine life and is one of the few places in Yorkshire to see seals and otters close up. There are also many different sea creatures on view, including sharks, turtles, starfish and clownfish amongst others. Throughout the day the centre holds demonstrations where visitors can watch the creatures being fed and learn about them.
Whether it flies, swims, or crawls there are many zoos in Yorkshire which offer a fun, informative and truly wild experience.