South Lakes Wild Animal Park
Dalton in Furness, Cumbria
Tel: 01229 466086
About South Lakes Wild Animal Park
South Lakes Wild Animal Park is located at Crossgates, Dalton-in-Furness, Cumbria, in the beautiful southern end of the Lake District, not far from Barrow-in-Furness. The family attraction is open all year round and is widely acknowledged as Europe’s premier tiger conservation centre, as well as being the Lake District’s two-time Official Top Visitor Attraction (1999/2000) and one of the UK’s leading zoological parks, with more than 100 species on show in naturalistic habitats.
A family day out to South Lakes Wild Animal Park in fact takes in several unique features, such as an aerial walkway dubbed Skyway To The Bears that allows ticket holders to oversee the family attraction’s bear collection; all six of the South American Margays in the UK; and an enclosure housing both the rare Amur and Sumatran species of tigers – the world’s largest and smallest, respectively – a combined sight to be seen at no other family attraction in Britain.
Indeed, a ticket to South Lakes Wild Animal Park opens up a fascinating world of wildlife and the efforts being made to preserve it both at home and overseas, making it a family day out that is both educational and tremendously enjoyable. The 14-acre family attraction has displays informing ticket holders about the numerous exotic and native animals to be seen, the facilities provided for their conservation, and South Lakes Wild Animal Park’s ongoing world-renowned breeding programmes.
Built single-handedly by animal nutritionist David Gill in 1993/94 on erstwhile farmland, South Lakes Wild Animal Park opened in May 1994 with Wallabies, graceful Antelope, Guanacos, Raccoons, Coatis, squawking Parrots, Pheasants and Ducks, all hosued in natural enclosures surrounded by tropical gardens featuring palm trees, bananas and bamboo.
Within a year, South Lakes Wild Animal Park had added dedicated Antelope facilities and Lemur enclosures, and the family attraction was pulling in 55,000 visitors a year. The number of ticket holders passing through South Lakes Wild Animal Park’s gates nearly doubled by 1996, and that year saw the arrival of the family attraction’s first tigers – the biggest of the big cats.
The following year, the Australian Experience opened with the largest collection of Kangaroo species anywhere outside Australia, followed by Cheetahs on the African Plain. That continent’s contingent expanded in 1998 with the introduction of the impressive white Rhino, in 1999 with a primate house containing several species of apes and, by the millennium, South Lakes Wild Animal Park was welcoming 220,000 visitors per annum.
Since then, additions to South Lakes Wild Animal Park have included slender Giraffe (reaching 5.5 metres in height), majestic Zebra, powerful Spectacled Bears and, in 2002, a pride of Lions – kings and queens of their own particular patch of jungle.
Thereafter, marmosets, monkeys and Baboons all took up residence, followed by the arrival of Fruit Bats, Siamang and Babirusa, Penguins, Mandrills and Pygmy Hippos. New high-level wooden Giraffe and Cheetah walkways were installed to take ticket holders closer to the animals than ever before, and the African Savannah zone became home to Mandrills, while the South American section took Coatis, Tapirs and Andean Bears.
By 2007, South Lakes Wild Animal Park had expanded further with mongoose and tamarin habitats, new water features for the captivatingly playful Otters and their neighbours, and extra elevated walkways giving ticket holders a fresh and close-up view of the African lions.
South Lakes Wild Animal Park boasts other walkthroughs in its fruit bat aviary and a 35 foot high and 120 foot long aviary that houses free-flying Condors, Vultures and other birds of prey, allowing them to be viewed up close and personal. Just the ticket if you believe in muck for luck!
Other highlights of the South America zone include Spider Monkeys, macaw, conure and marmoset, while the Australian Bush zone has free-ranging deer, emus, wallabies, kangaroos, ibis, black swan, bettong, possum, cockatoo, kookaburra and parrots, and special food is available to hand-feed a good number of these and other animals.
In the Africa zone, feeding time for the big cats is a major draw for ticket holders to the family attraction as the tigers and lions climb half way up 25-feet trees to get to their food. Elsewhere, prickly porcupines and inquisitive meerkats mix with their bigger neighbours, and in the Indonesia section gibbons monkey around for their human cousins, capturing the spotlight like the natural performers that they are.
The Madagascar area is inhabited by eight varieties of lemur, and other species on view include the furtive red panda, terrapin, venerable tortoise, once-native maned wolves, tamarins and a host of feathered friends such as pheasants, lapwings, storks, owls and waterfowl – worth the price of the ticket alone for twitchers!
Further enhancing a family day out to South Lakes Wild Animal Park is the Happy Feet walk in the Penguin enclosure, where ticket holders can hand-feed the comical flightless birds – when they’re not skittering about, diving in their pools or generally entertaining the crowds, as is their wont.
Throughout the day, the family attraction involves ticket holders by allowing them to hand-feed giraffes, apes, monkeys, vultures and lemurs, while there are feeding demonstrations with the tigers, lions, bears and penguins. Talks are presented on rhino and giraffe conservation, and ticket holders can hold snakes and overcome any phobia of them.
Furthermore, Hands On sessions are staged with kangaroos and there is a farm petting corner for children where they can engage with domestic species such as sheep, pigs and goats. Groups are catered for with special talks, zoo newsletters, worksheets, fact sheets, trails and tours taking in the state of the art Veterinary Centre at the middle of the park.
Indeed, the family attraction caters for corporate events with its conference room and other facilities for meetings, exhibitions, training events and product launches (details at the website). For those wishing to book a special family day out, there are Keeper For The Day packages which involve spending a day shadowing a keeper and helping with food preparation, feeding and cleaning out a selection of cheetahs, tigers, lions, Rhinos, Giraffes, Baboons, Porcupines, spectacled Bears, tapir, Coati, Otters, Hippos, Babirusa, Gibbon, Mandrill, Spider monkey, Siamang, Macaques, Bats, Tortoise, Lemurs, Tamarins, Marmosets, Kangaroos, Wallabies, Penguins, Macaws, Spoonbills, Kookaburra, Waterfowl, Storks and Ibis.
Adding to a fun family day out at South Lakes Wild Animal Park are a miniature steam railway and an adventure playground, while the family attraction has a well-stocked Africa-themed Wild Things Gift Shop and Maki Restaurant, plus outside picnic areas overlooking the African Savannah with seating for 500. With disabled facilities and access throughout, South Lakes Wild Animal Park is a family attraction that everyone can enjoy for a fabulous family day out.