Dudley, England, United Kingdom
The Dudley Zoo is a 40 acre zoo on the grounds of Dudley Castle, a castle built in the 11th century and is now said to be one of the most haunted castles in England. In addition to the more than 1000 animals of more than 160 species to view, guests can visit the castle and even go on a Haunted Castle tour in the middle of the night. Tour guides, or ghost hunters, bring along equipment designed to help visitors spot any “paranormal activity” that might suggest the presence of a ghost!
Twelve original buildings on site built around the castle from 1937 reflect the Art Deco design of the time. Few of those building house animals any longer, as the zoo has gone to great lengths in the past decade to greatly improve living condition for all of its animals. To this end, the zoo decided in 2003 to part with its two African elephants, sending them to a sanctuary where they would have much more space the Dudley Zoo could ever provide. New enclosures for Lions, chimpanzees and other large animals were reconstructed or expanded when space allowed.
In a creative approach to giving the Sumatran tigers more space with limited expansion opportunities, the zoo merged two separate enclosures. Sumatran tigers, beautifully and gravely endangered, are a big draw at the zoo. The breeding pair that calls the zoo home are part of the European Endangered species program, and have produced eight cubs since they arrived in 1996. Those cubs have gone on to other accredited zoos to have cubs of their own and enhance the genetic viability needed to keep the species from disappearing.
Another big cat featured at the zoo that is one of the most endangered animals on the planet is The Asiatic Lion, with only 200 remaining in its native home. There are approximately 300 of these rare cats in zoos worldwide, and Dudley Zoo is proud to have three of those lions in residence at the Lion Ridge exhibit. Itar, the male, and his pride of two females, Kyra and Asha, have produced five cubs since 1995. As with the Sumatran tiger cubs, those lion cubs have gone one to start breeding programs of their own.
Another species the zoo has helped propagate and share with other zoos to form their own colonies is the Humboldt penguin. Currently the zoo is home to a rookery of about 60 of these large birds, and guests can watch not only their great maneuvering abilities in the water, but also a keeper talk and feeding of the larger flightless birds. Humboldt penguins are an endangered species due to the effects of climate change and the depletion of their food sources. The breeding program at the Dudley zoo is helping preserve the species with its captive breeding and has had 183 babies hatched on site. 45 of those have been shared with other facilities in Europe.
Other very interesting things to see include the Monkey tails exhibit where guests can visit Saki, emperor tamarins, squirrel monkeys often with babies in tow, and playful Asian otters. If a visitor wants to get even closer to some of the animals, a walk through the Lemur wood can provide the most personal of experiences. On the acre long enclosure, 30 lemurs jump and play and often jump onto a guest to see if there might be a treat involved in the interaction. Children will also love the area called Farmyard Fun, where they can reach out and touch pigs, goats, chickens, geese and even Giant English rabbits. If that isn’t enough for the youngsters, there is the option to become a “Little Zookeeper”, which is an opportunity for children to help feed, clean and care for the animals in the children’s zoo as well as a chance to meet a Rothchilds Giraffe or pet the strange and interesting Brazilian Tapir.
In addition to the hands on experiences offered at the Farmyard, a guest can have other unique and educational experiences with keepers and their residents. A few of the programs offered are Tiger Tails, a Giraffe Talk, and a combination feeding and keeper talks with the Asian otters. A few other things not to miss at the Dudley Zoo include the Birds of Prey show, the interesting Bush Dog, a water dog that has weasel like features and was thought to be extinct in South America where Native Americans raised the animals for pets, and “Sprout”, a brand new baby orangutan. For an extra fee, guests can meet the chimps, meet the lions, or even “tickle a tapir”.