Tel: 01598 763352
Exmoor Zoo, open since 1982, is an animal park which prides itself on close encounters and friendly interaction between animals and humans. Exmoor Zoo doesn't emulate city captivity or expansive wildlife parks, but resembles more of an intimate farm where visitors are encouraged to get involved in learning about, petting and even feeding certain animals. You should feel fully acquainted with most of the residents before the day is out!
Winner of the Best Small Attraction in the South West 2013 and Best Attraction in Devon in 2012, Exmoor Zoo is a tour de force of its kind. The zoo is constantly introducing new species and delivering new babies into its fields and enclosures, meaning that no two visits are the same. The zoo's residents consistently chop, change and expand, but some species you can hope to meet include cheetahs, blackbucks, maned wolves, sitatunga, caracal, puma, tapir, chameleons and sand cats! The zoo itself is cleverly constructed to give the animals optimum comfort, with tactfully planted trees and shrubs to hide in when they aren't feeling quite as sociable. Many visitors comment actually on how keen the animals are to mingle; nothing to do with the food we're sure!
As well as standard ticket entry, the zoo offers a variety of experiences. Why not try being a zoo keeper for a day? Junior zoo keepers can take part in a half day of feeding ring tailed lemurs, meeting the reindeer and handling little creatures, whilst slightly older volunteers can do all of this as well as taking part in end of the day presentations, enrichment activities with the animals, cheetah feeding, penguin feeding, meeting the singing dogs and giving the tortoises a manicure! Zoo keepers for the day will also get to meet any new zoo babies and will be awarded a certificate of participation for their efforts. Alternatively book in advance for a 'Walk on the Wild Side' where you will be personally guided around the zoo by one of the professional keepers, who will be able to take you into some enclosures and give you closer contact with the animals, as well as telling educational and entertaining stories about them. Keen photographers can join the zoo's resident cameraman John Hammond, who will take them around the zoo and give them tips on how to get the optimum animal shots. The zoo also hosts a variety of annual events including Parrots of the Caribbean, Exmoor Beast Week and an Easter Trail Quiz Hunt.
Standard admission to the zoo also gives you access to plenty of excitement, such as regular talks and demonstrations throughout the day. There will be a detailed timetable on the website of daily events involving all sorts of different animals, some of which include penguin feeds, meerkat encounters, 'spider phobia' and 'The Really Slow Show' starring the tortoises. Lemur, meerkat and penguin experiences can also be booked, which give you an opportunity to dedicate an hour or so of your day at the zoo to preparing their feed and meeting the animals in the enclosure; a great way to balance seeing all of the zoo and having a more personal experience with some of its inhabitants. The best way to see the zoo yourself is simply to follow the zoo trail. The flora and fauna have a tropical jungle feel so you can get stuck into your exploration for Egyptian fruit bats, porcupines, the dwarf mongoose, wallabies, river hogs, spider monkeys, kangaroos, and all with orchids and butterflies to mix things up!
The zoo also boasts an 'Exmoor Beast' enclosure. The enclosure houses a black lady leopard, Ebony, whose species is probably responsible for the elusive sightings on Exmoor. The enclosure also exhibits an array of skulls and artefacts from Exmoor, as well as boards full of myths and newspaper clippings about the 'Exmoor Beast.' Tantalising stuff!
The zoo, situated in the North Devon Valley by Exmoor National Park, also has a children's adventure playground and trampoline area to keep the little ones entertained. There is a stamper trail for the kids to enjoy around the zoo; fill it in correctly and they might get a prize! Families will also find plenty to eat after their animal expeditions thanks to the African Café, picnic areas and snack shack, whilst a token memory can be purchased at the Zoovenir gift shop. As a member of BIAZA (British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums) the zoo is actively involved in conservation and fundraising efforts across the world; from helping breed some of the world's rarest birds to fundraising for the Makasuto Wildlife Trust in The Gambia. The award winning team of education officers will be able to tell you more about these projects and you can also get stuck in yourself, with opportunities such as adoption, volunteering and zoo holidays!
Exmoor Zoo is open 362 days a year, only closing from 24th-26th December. Concession and child tickets are available and under 3s go free! Thanks to the compact nature of the zoo it is suitable for anyone with limited mobility. Although a bit of a drive from Dartmouth, the day out in Bratton Fleming promises to be worth it. The wallabies can't wait to see you.
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