Isle of Wight Zoo
Sandown, Isle of Wight
Tel: 01983 403883
About Isle of Wight Zoo
Isle Of Wight Zoo is located on the south-east of the beautiful island off the southern English coast, overlooking Sandown Bay’s seafront, its sandy beaches and precipitous cliff walks, as well as the the town of Shanklin to the south.
The family attraction was founded in the 1950s within the walls of the sturdy Victorian fort (which was constructed as a defence against French invasion in the 19th century, as detailed on site). However, Isle Of Wight Zoo fell into disrepair in the 1970s and was dubbed a ‘slum zoo’ by the press, firing a businessman up to take over and to start on a rebuilding programme from 1976. Within a year, Isle Of Wight Zoo had established a Herpetological Centre and, before the decade was out, the family attraction took delivery of its first tigers, as well as a steady stream of other animal species and supporting flora.
Since then, Isle Of Wight Zoo has established Britain’s largest collection of tigers and has become an award-winning family day out. Since the 1980s, Isle Of Wight Zoo has acquired an international reputation for its big cat conservation and breeding programmes, while The Tiger Sanctuary was joined in the 1990s by another specialist facility, Lemurland. Both sanctuaries, as well as the other animal habitats of the family attraction contain naturalistic enclosures with exotic flora, stone and water features, and open viewing areas.
Isle Of Wight Zoo’s latest addition, the Africa-inspired Kanha Enclosure, has been called one of the best new zoo enclosures in the world, with its savannah re-creation and state of the art facilities. The family attraction’s resident Education Officer explains these and other ongoing developments to ticket holders, including school groups, while keeper presentations take place throughout the day, ensuring an educational as well as a fascinating family day out.
Isle Of Wight Zoo’s Tiger Sanctuary contains up to 20 tigers – the biggest collection in the UK – plus three lions, two jaguars, a leopard and five small cats, making them a star turn on a family day out to the seaside zoo. Ticket holders can learn from displays about the tiger breeding and rearing programme – both in the UK and in partnership with overseas organisations, particularly in Africa – as well as watch the biggest members of the feline family attraction at feeding, providing both an informative and a gripping family day out.
Other cats that the Isle Of Wight Zoo has nurtured over the years include cheetahs, pumas, servals, jungle cats and leopard cats, but the family attraction has chosen to concentrate its attentions on the tiger, whose five species are the most endangered of the big cats in the wild.
Additionally, the family attraction has become the focus of ITV’s ‘Tiger Island’ ‘fly-on-the-wall’ documentary series, with seven programmes about Isle Of Wight Zoo’s tiger collection and the other animal residents in their human care environments. Ticket holders can go ‘on location’ and see the stars of the show themselves with their natural off-screen personas, evidently happy to meet their public, not least at daily feeding sessions.
All aspects of Isle Of Wight Zoo’s husbandry and veterinary procedures are highlighted, along with primate hand-rearing, by displays about the TV show that inform visitors on a family day out about the Athena Films production.
Isle Of Wight Zoo’s other dedicated animal sanctuary, Lemurland, has four species of the primitive Madagascan lemur in its care, as well as a host of their furry neighbours and other residents. First introduced to the family attraction in 1990, the prosimian lemurs are a favourite on a family day out, their tiny twitching heads and wet, dog-like noses giving them a furtively appealing appearance as they pick up scents and bob and weave about their prairie-style enclosures. Ticket holders can also observe the lemurs using their teeth as a dental comb for grooming and learn that the lemurs are the only primates that purr, sounding like Cheshire cats when they’re happy! Not something that you’ll find at any old family attraction.
A ticket to Isle Of Wight Zoo’s Lemurland also brings visitors face to face with a thriving Primate population that includes members of five species of Old (Catarrhine) & New (Platyrrhine) World monkeys, notably Vervet Monkeys, Capuchins, Spider Monkeys and Coatis. The anthropoids seem to be natural performers, and so, for anyone wanting to monkey around on their family day out, a visit to the primate section of Lemurland is just the ticket!
The family attraction’s Reptile House features a huge collection of exotic amphibians, snakes, lizards, insects and spiders, slithering and hopping about their glass displays and basking in the appropriate vegetation of their natural environments.
Among the amphibians are ribbeting frogs, toads, rare newts, salamanders and worm-like caecilians, while the reptiles include a whole variety of snakes, numerous lizards, dwarf types of crocodilians and a number of chelonians (tortoises and turtles).
The arthropod family take in insects, crabs, millipedes and centipedes, and a family day out to Isle Of Wight Zoo would not be complete without taking in their creep-crawly world. Meanwhile, for those lovers of eight-legged freaks and all Arachnids, there are examples of groups such as spiders, scorpions, whip spiders, whip scorpions, pseudo-scorpions, harvestman, camel spiders, ticks and mites. What’s more, Isle Of Wight Zoo specialises in the hairy, scary Tarantula, with talks about the much misunderstood creature and phobia workshops on offer to ticket holders, while the invertebrates are represented by the likes of the magnificent mollusc, the Giant East African Land Snail.
Daily Public Presentations occur at the family attraction, informing ticket holders and groups partaking in Public & Schools Education Programmes all year round about all aspects of the work of Isle Of Wight Zoo. The Presentation Schedule takes in a Big Cat Tour, Lemur Feeding and Conservation Talk, Jeepers Creepers, Ask the Keeper and Monkey Enrichment talks, making for an informative as well as an entertaining family day out.
Isle Of Wight Zoo additionally has a free car park, a Children’s Play Area, a café, a shop with a broad range of animal-related wares, and disabled access throughout, making the family attraction a super family day out for everyone to enjoy.