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- A-Zoo Nursery
Blackpool Zoo and the site on which it stands has had a long and varied history. Before the zoo was built, the site was actually an airport. Later it became home for the Royal Lancashire Show before eventually becoming a zoo in 1972.
The site of what is now Blackpool Zoo is opened as Blackpool Municipal Airport.
The site becomes Stanley Park Aerodrome. World War II breaks out on September 3rd and the aerodrome is requisitioned as an RAF parachute training centre. To begin with there is the air traffic control building and one hangar, now known as Hangar E. Later, an extra four large hangars are built and Wellington bombers are assembled and flown off the site. After the war finishes the site would never be reopened for flying, as the Squires Gate site is found to be more suitable. The famous female pilot, Amy Johnson, is also known to have flown from this site.
After the airport closes, Blackpool Borough Council takes over the site and the buildings become a storage facility for the council, including the illuminations and the promenade deckchairs.
The Royal Lancashire Show, England 's oldest county agricultural show settles on the Stanley Park Aerodrome site in this year and remains until 1972 when it moves to a new site at Ribby Hall, Wrea Green to make way for the development of a zoo.
A proposal to build zoological gardens on the Stanley Park site is first suggested when a corporation sub committee has meetings with Mr. N. Farrar, director of Southport Zoo.
The Blackpool Tower Zoo (see picture below) closes down; the council decide that the resort should have a zoological collection; later in this year the first plans are drawn up for a prospective zoo. Other suggestions for the site include a horseracing track, a speedway, a Formula 1 circuit and even a Disney World. The latter suggestion comes the closest to being developed but it is stopped at the last minute due to pressure from other attractions in the town.
After the first suggestion of a zoo in 1962, ten years have elapsed before the zoo finally opens on July 6th of this year. The zoo is opened to the public on a very wet day by Mr. Johnny Morris of T.V. Animal Magic fame. He formally opens the zoo riding on an elephant accompanied by the Mayor who rides in a Rolls Royce.
To begin with the zoo houses 2 Asian Elephants, 3 White Rhinos, 2 Giraffe, Sea Lions, Gorillas, Chimpanzees, Orang-utans, Lions and 2 Giant Tortoises.
The zoo offices and an education classroom are housed in the old air traffic control building with the hangars being used to house the elephants, for food storage, quarantine and maintenance of the site.
The original plan is for a 3-phase 100-acre-plus zoo development. Rising costs, however, mean that the zoo is never developed from the original 33 acres. The first zoo director is Mr. Cyril Grace who was formerly the manager of Dudley Zoo.
During Mr. Grace's tenure, the zoo aims to focus on Australian species such as Tree Kangaroos, wombats and other Australian species. For many years zoo houses a large collection of Australian animals such as emus and various species of kangaroos, wallabies and swans.
Mr. Grace retires and the zoo is taken over by the Parks and Recreation Department of Blackpool Borough Council. The director of Parks, Mr. Matthews, is made Zoo Director as well as Parks and Mr. George Edmonds, Curator under Mr. Grace is made Assistant Director.
Mr. Edmonds leaves and Mr. Read, who was the zoo's Education Officer is appointed as Assistant Director.
In March of this year Mr. Matthews retires due to CCT and the Parks Department as such folds. In August the zoo officially comes under the Director of Tourism, Mr. B Morris; Mr. Read is re-designated Zoo Manager.
On the 1 st April, Steven Stanley is appointed Manager of the zoo having previously been Manager of Cricket St. Thomas Zoo. During this time the way the council funds the zoo is reorganised, giving more freedom to develop. It is also deregulated for V.A.T.; this is backdated 5 years giving the Council a cash windfall of which only a small amount is actually spent on the zoo. A new entrance and larger shop are created which has the desired effect of increased customer spending.
Steven Leonard of "Vets in Practice" fame opens the new entrance.
The giraffe leave Blackpool Zoo a couple of years after the white rhinos, to allow greater facilities for the elephants. It is decided to completely redevelop their once shared enclosure, solely for the elephants; the paddock is extended to included a bathing pool.
Steven Stanley leaves, taking up an appointment as Director of Auckland Zoo, New Zealand . Iain Valentine takes over the manager position from Mr. Stanley having previously been manager at Camperdown Wildlife Centre in Dundee . The re-organisation of the zoo finally starts to pay dividends, enabling the zoo to develop new exhibits. Gorilla Mountain, the Red Panda enclosure, Lemur Wood and the parrot display arena are four of the larger new developments that are built over the following years.
With the animal collection growing and ever more involvement in British and European Breeding programmes, a new structure is required for the keeping staff. A trainee keeper scheme is started which can take up to 6 people on a 3-year traineeship.
The zoo acquires two more Asian elephants making a total of 4 at the zoo. These come from the Berlin State Circus, which is going into liquidation.
A Lemur Wood is built on the site of the old Giant Tortoise enclosure. This facility houses 3 species of lemur; Ring-Tailed, Black and Red Ruffed.
Gorilla Mountain is built on the site of the old Markhor Goat enclosure giving the gorillas greater freedom to forage in a more natural setting.
The new red panda enclosure is completed in this year housing 2 animals. It is a conversion from the old meerkat enclosure.
In April ownership and development of the zoo is taken over by Grant Leisure Ltd. who own and operate Bournemouth Oceanarium and the Aquarium of the Lakes. Grant Leisure is a member of MICE Group Plc, and pledges to invest millions of pounds into the zoo over the following 10-15 years. 2003 also heralds yet another change in the zoo's director. Iain Valentine steps down to take up a post at Edinburgh Zoo and is replaced by Mr. Andrew Coates.
As part of the agreed investment by MICE Group, a second hangar is fully redeveloped to house offices, admissions, retail areas and a Costa coffee shop. The old entrance becomes the Education Department and the unique "Dinosaur Safari" is opened. This walk round time trail with its 32 lifesize dinosaurs, volcano and prehistoric gardens is an instant success, particularly with children.
Further investment results in the transformation of the old office / education block into a 66 place children's day nursery. This "zoo-nique" facility, the A - Zoo Nursery, attracts media interest worldwide, as it is thought to be the only nursery with a 32 acre zoo in its back garden anywhere in the world. Also opened, although on a temporary basis, the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" exhibition containing props and costumes from the cult film. In order to house the exhibition, part of another hangar was lined and fitted, providing space for future exhibits or exhibitions.
Amazonia was also launched this year - developed in the water gardens which were closed several years ago - visitors can sample life in the rainforest, amidst animals including squirrel monkeys, marmosets, red titi monkeys, agouti, toco toucans and numerous species of parrot and water fowl.
The Zoo has been taken over this year by Parques Reunidos, a Spanish-based leisure organisation with 24 other zoos, safari parks, water parks and leisure outlets. Being a company whose core business is leisure, Parques Reunidos have pledged further investment into the animal sector at the Zoo, with planned new exhibits to include more lions, giraffes, penguins and white rhino, as well as refurbishment of some of the original enclsoures. This venture heralds the beginning of a very promising and exciting future for Blackpool Zoo.
The zoo's primary aim is to conserve endangered species, putting the animals first. With zoos working together across Europe and internationally too, we can have successful breeding programmes and ensure a future for many species that would otherwise become extinct.
It is hoped that the planned, future redevelopment of the existing park will see Blackpool Zoo become a leading UK collection.
New developments this year are being added at a fast and furious pace! The previously rough car park now boasts a level, well-marked, tarmac surface with dedicated areas for those with disabilities and a coach park and loading area. This makes access much easier for all ages, especially those with pushchairs or wheelchairs.
The magnificent Arnie Aardvark's Adventure Play Barn is also open and proving a very popular addition to the Zoo's portfolio of activities. Aimed at children up to 11 years (maximum height is 4'11"), the play area keeps the kids busy whilst parents relax on the soft, comfortable sofas or enjoy a snack from the "chip-free" healthy coffee shop.
Due to popular demand, giraffes returned to the Zoo during the summer. Always at the top of the list of most-wanted animals, these beautiful, gentle giants undoubtedly captivate visitors and staff alike.
Another favourite of the visitors made a welcome return in 2009 - penguins. The first phase of the Active Oceans area was completed with a raised pool with underwater viewing of these very entertaining birds. The species taking up residency were Magellanic penguins, native to South America and the only ones of their kind in the UK.
A sad and significant loss in 2009 was our Amur tiger, Jagasar. In his mid-twenties, he was thought to be the oldest Amur tiger in captivity in Europe. A young male was then brought in, Zambar, from Marwell Zoo and it's hoped that a female will join him in the not-too-distant future for breeding.
Blackpool Zoo's first ever lion cubs also arrived in 2009. Born to lioness Gillian, all three cubs are female and will remain within the pride for about two years.
Active Oceans was completed in early 2010 with the complete refurbishment of the sealion pool, already the largest pool in Europe. The surround was naturalized and a 300 seater grandstand added. Huge glass windows allow superb viewing of the training routines performed several times a day. Unusually, too, the trainers swim with the animals during the display. A new breeding male, Max, arrived from Madrid and settled in very well.
The Giraffe Heights walkway was also extended and the aardvarks given a great outdoor area which they proceeded to dig up with their massive claws! Wallaby Walkabout opened offering close encounters with a variety of marsupials including red and grey kangaroos as well as the wallabies.
Autumn 2010 sees the beginning of yet more development within the Animal Department as the Children's Zoo is being completely rebuilt in the South West Paddocks area of the Zoo. This will allow much better viewing of the smaller mammals both inside and out as a play area.
The fabulous new Children's Farm was successfully completed in Spring, 2011 and officially opened by the Mayor of Blackpool and Blackpool FC footballer, Gary Taylor-Fletcher, ably assisted by his son, George. The barn has proved very popular indeed and allows hands-on contact with familiar, and some not-so-familiar, animals and birds. New arrivals included Somali black-headed sheep, ferrets, giant rabbits, pygmy goats and, kindly loaned to us, a pair of delightful Shetland ponies and two female alpacas with their crias (babies).
Also refurbished and extended in 2011 was the main restaurant in the Zoo, fittingly renamed "Lake View Cafe". A new layout and menus were introduced including a burger bar serving freshly cooked "fast" food and a carvery with home cooked main courses, fresh salads and a fantastic selection of cakes and sweets.
Two smaller developments took place during the summer months in the old Children's Zoo area. The aviary was extended and netted to provide a fabulous new enclosure for a selection of wading birds and was named "Waders and Waddlers".
Finally, the old goat house interior was transformed to allow visitors access to our lorikeets which thoroughly appreciated their feeding sessions!
New in Spring, 2012, was Wolf Ridge, a huge, wooded enclosure occupying a large area on the northwest corner of the park which had previously been unused. A pack of Iberian wolves arrived from Woburn Safari Park and has proved a great hit with the visitors.
Giant anteaters were also new arrivals in 2012, now sharing their enclosure with vicugna and mara.