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Yorkshire Wildlife Park started on farmland with a few barnyard animals and grew into one of England’s most popular conservation sites with, yes, lions, tigers, and bears — and more. Writer Darren Skelton takes us on a tour.
Text : Darren Skelton
Country: England

ike many people, I love a good zoo. And luckily for me and my family, my parents live near one of England’s most popular animal parks, Yorkshire Wildlife Park. It is a hugely popular place that is now more commonly referred to as YWP by most staff, local press, and visitors. It is located in South Yorkshire, outside of the northern town of Doncaster, just a stone’s throw from Robin Hood airport, in fact.

My parents, my daughter and I visited YWP on Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, to walk off the large holiday lunch and let my daughter spend her gift money on toys.

As I stood watching my daughter feed kangaroos crunchy carrots, I chatted with Jim, a retiree, about the park. “It is the best thing in a long time to have happened around these parts”, he said. “It has brought a bit of life to the local area, not to mention economic benefits, opportunities for many, and local jobs”.

My parents both have annual cards for the park, which is a great value at around 50 pounds each for a whole year pass, whereby one can enter any day of the year that the park is open.

Judy, a nurse who works nearby, received an annual pass as a Christmas present from her husband. She finishes her shift around 2pm every day and pops in to the park daily on her way home. She loves to see the animals, to wind down, to switch off from work, and to get some exercise, as it is a sizeable park and she can get in a good walk.

Saving endangered species

At a ranger talk at the lions’ enclosure, I learned that the team is frequently overwhelmed by the number of donations and letters the park receives from supporters.

For example, in August 2009, YWP and a local newspaper raised £150,000 to rescue a pride of lions from a rundown Romanian zoo. The lions, healthy and thriving, are now one of the star attractions at the park.

In 2011, the zoo opened ‘Land of the Tigers’, which contains two large, deep pools, and a waterfall next to a wetland reserve. Visitors view the tigers from a 150-metre-long, raised wooden walkway, with the tiger enclosure on one side of the walkway and the wetlands on the other. The lovely viewing spot includes benches and a covered area.

As I sat enjoying a nice brew of tea and some biscuits, I spoke with Claire, a farmer from nearby who was at the zoo with her daughter for a friend’s birthday outing.

“It’s a great place for the kids”, she said. “We come here often as we have annual family passes. The kids just adore the animals, the playgrounds, and the whole experience of being in nature.”

In July 2014, the park opened a large enclosure for polar bears named ‘Project Polar’. The first resident, a 500-kilogram male called Victor, was joined by his grandson Pixel in March 2015. Watching the bears swim around in a giant lake playing around is certainly fun. Two more polar bears are on the way.

John, one of the park rangers, spoke with me after he finished giving a talk at the Polar Bear enclosure to a large group of attentive park visitors.

He said he “loves his job very much for three reasons: Firstly, for making a positive impact on endangered animal welfare. Secondly, giving daily talks to the public is a fun and engaging way to educate them about the animals and the issues surrounding them. Thirdly, for having an active and outdoor job that offers plentiful exercise.”

A highlight for visitors both old and young is the Lemur Woods, which is one of the many designatedwalk-through’ enclosures in the park. In this spacious area full of trees, there are groups of ring-tailed and black-and-white ruffed lemurs, and they are generally exceedingly playful and easily excited. They are great to watch.

Within the zoo are a couple of medium-sized restaurants and smaller snack bars. Jane, who is a college student, works part time at the eateries, and said she feels fortunate to have a found a really great part-time job locally to help support her studies, as she hopes to become a ranger.

Celebrations and more

My cousin and I returned to the zoo in January to celebrate my daughter’s and my niece’s shared birthday. We booked a private Junior Rangers tour, during which the girls would get to feed giraffes and other animals (not the man-eaters, of course) and learn more about them.

Two rangers led the tour, an experienced one and a trainee. Jessica, the trainee park ranger, told us that she is proud of the positive contributions and opportunities the park brings to the local communities nearby. She is constantly learning more about the animals and herself, and especially loves meeting lots of fascinated kids with endless questions.

Exciting expansions are in progress at YWP, and the staff hope to educate many more visitors regarding animal conservation and continue to positively influence the community.

Info Box regarding YWP

Open since 2009, the park has grown from housing a few farm animals to being home for more than 60 species.

· The park is proud of being ‘The UK’s Number 1 Walkthrough Wildlife Adventure’.
· As of January 2017, Yorkshire Wildlife Park contains over 300 animals, including ostriches, pigs, lemurs, and leopards.
· Popular sites are the camel enclosure, the birds of prey enclosure, and the zebra enclosure.
· A crowd favorite is the ‘Leopard Heights’ that houses four Amur leopards, two adults named Drake and Freya, and their two cubs born in June 2015.
· The park contains picnic areas and strongly encourages visitors not to eat outside of them for hygiene and safety.
· The park also has two playgrounds, one outdoors and the other indoors.
· Christmas Santa grottos and artisan farmer’s markets are held on the grounds throughout the year.
· In late 2016, the park announced a £3.6 million expansion of the African Plains exhibit, which will include an enclosure for black rhinoceros.
· For further information, visit the website at


A Day at the Zoo

I love a good zoo and I'm very lucky that my parents live near one of England's most popular animal parks, Yorkshire Wildlife Park, also known as YWP. It is located in South Yorkshire and is a very popular place with locals and outsiders alike.

I visited YWP the day after Christmas with my parents and my daughter. As she fed the kangaroos crunchy carrots, I chatted with Jim, a visitor to the park. He says the park is the best thing in the area as it brought a bit of life to the local area as well as economic benefits and opportunities and jobs for many locals.

The park often receives a lot of donations and letters from supporters. For example, in August 2009, YWP and a local newspaper raised £150,000 to rescue a pride of lions from a rundown Romanian zoo. The lions are now healthy and thriving and are one of the star attractions at the park.

The park has many other interesting attractions where you can visit tigers, polar bears, lemurs, and rhinoceros, among others. And there are many more expansions currently in progress at YWP. I can't wait to see what new enclosures they open next!



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A Day at the Zoo



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