East Park Drive
Blackpool, Lancashire FY3 9RS
Tel: 01253 830 830
About Blackpool Zoo
Located on East Park Drive off the M6/M55, two miles from the sea-front, and three miles from Blackpool South railway station, Blackpool Zoo is a great family day out. One of Lancashire’s premier attractions and among the UK’s leading zoological gardens, the family attraction has over 350,000 visitors each year. Blackpool Zoo is located on the site of the original Municipal Airport, which opened in 1931, and during the War, the site of the family attraction had an intriguing history. As Stanley Park Aerodrome, it operated from September 1939 as an RAF parachute training centre, with an air traffic control tower (which was later used to house offices and a classroom) and a hangar (subsequently used as the elephant house and food store). Four more hangars were added in the war years and Wellington bombers were constructed there, then test-flown. In 1945, Blackpool Borough Council used the now-empty buildings to store the town’s illuminations and deck-chairs. Then, in 1953, the Royal Lancashire Show took over and ran an annual show until, in 1962, plans for a zoological gardens were proposed and discussions held with Southport Zoo. Seven years later, the Blackpool Tower Zoo closed and the Council drew plans for a new zoo. A proposal for Disney World almost came to fruition, but in July 1972, the 33-acre Blackpool Zoo was opened by TV’s Johnny Morris, of Animal Magic, who rode in on an elephant! It was one of two Asian elephants at the family attraction, accompanied by three white rhinos, two giraffes, sea-lions, gorillas, chimpanzees, orang-utans, lions and a pair of giant tortoises. The zoo’s original wards were overseen by Cyril Grace of Dudley Zoo, who focused on nurturing Australasian species, like tree kangaroos, wombats, emus, wallabies and swans. Since then, the collection has grown to over 1500 animals from all over the world, making for a varied family day. The animals are housed in special habitats and enclosures, allowing a fun family day out in any weather, with popular attractions including marmosets, tamarins, monkeys, red titi, saki, colobus, Amur tigers, porcupine, capybara, agouti, meerkat, aardvark, tapir, camels, llama, vicugna, muntjac, gazelle, zebu, bongo, sitatunga, cuscus, potoroo, curassow, caiman, numerous invertebrates, and scores of bird and reptile species, notably snakes and lizards. With wheelchair-friendly access and many enclosures with low level viewing windows, Blackpool Zoo offers a memorable fun family day out, as well as offering educational visits (including animal handling, pet-care and Keeper For A Day) or corporate events (such as team-building exercises, product launch days and competitions). There are disabled toilets situated round the site, free, bookable wheelchairs, and a private medical room, while pre-booked Talking Tours are available for visitors with visual impairment and signing for the deaf, meaning every need is catered for on a fun family say out to Blackpool Zoo. Car parking is £2, while coach parking is free.
Among the host of entertainment at Blackpool Zoo are talks given by keepers at specified times during the day on the penguins, elephants, pelicans, otters, big cats and, on some weekends, reindeer, lemurs, sea-lions and giraffes. Many of the animals have open feeding sessions, where visitors can get up close and personal with the zoo’s star turns (weather and staff permitting), and Amazonia and the Creepy Crawly Experience are open daily. In addition to the animals, the main Entrance Hall features a Coffee Shop, gift shop, children’s Play Barn soft play area, birthday party rooms, toilets and a Nursery accommodating up to 66 children. In the centre of the zoo near the elephant house is a licensed family cafe that seats 300. Additionally, there are ice cream kiosks as well as picnic tables, and two small shops, ensuring a fun day out for all the family.
Within Blackpool Zoo’s woodland, lakes, and naturalistic habitats, from African savannah to Thai rainforest, are events at the Outdoor Theatre Arena, with 250 seats under a shower canopy. It has a covered performance area and is used for training sessions, theatre, dance, live music and shows. Additionally, a modern Lecture Theatre has 70 theatre seats and 30 board-room seats, air conditioning and is sound-proofed. Syndicate rooms are available for meetings and celebrations (with birthday party bags, magicians, fire-eaters, comedians and circus skills), while a Meeting Room accommodates 10 people.
The focus of Blackpool Zoo’s activities are a fun family day out combined with conservation of endangered species such as Hartmann’s zebra, monk seals and the Bornean orang-utan. In 1993, a new entrance and shop were opened by Steven Leonard of TV’s Vets In Practice, and the elephant enclosure was re-developed with a bathing pool. Three years later, work began on Gorilla Mountain, the Red Panda enclosure, Lemur Wood and the parrot display arena, while Blackpool Zoo enhanced its involvement in British and European Breeding programmes and three-year keeper traineeships were initiated. In 1999, the population of Asian elephants doubled to four, with acquisitions from the Berlin State Circus, and Lemur Wood opened on the site of the old giant tortoise enclosure. Next year, Gorilla Mountain was unveiled on the old Markhor Goat enclosure, offering the primates a natural setting, while the red panda enclosure took over from the meerkat enclosure in 2002. Under new ownership the following year, Blackpool Zoo developed a second hangar in 2005 for use as offices and a coffee shop, while the Dinosaur Safari, with 32 lifesize dinosaurs, model volcano and prehistoric gardens, was opened. In 2006, a third hangar was fitted out for exhibitions and Amazonia opened with its rainforest fauna, monkeys, marmosets, agouti, toucans and water fowl. The family attraction changed hands in 2007, with more lions, giraffes, penguins and white rhino, plus ongoing refurbishments. 2008 saw a new car park, Arnie Aardvark’s Adventure Play Barn and the return of giraffes after an absence of 15 years. A new penguin facility opened in 2009 (including, unique to the UK, Magellanic penguins), and the sea-lion pool was revamped in 2010, ensuring that Blackpool Zoo remains at the forefront of conservation advances into the new decade while remaining a great family day out.
For more information: www.blackpoolzoo.org.uk.