Yorkshire Wildlife Park: More than just a zoo

Living in the east midlands i don’t have many zoos close, which can be frustrating as i do LOVE a good zoo visit! But we do have a couple within an hours drive (ish), one of which is Yorkshire Wildlife Park, just outside of Doncaster.

YWP is not like your normal zoo or wildlife park. Opening in April 2009 the park was built on a former riding school and farm, and sees itself as a modern centre for animal/wildlife conservation and welfare. Housing over 400 animals of over 70 different species, the wildlife park has come so far since its initial opening nearly 10 years ago, and now also has its own charity foundation, the Yorkshire Wildlife Park Foundation. Created in 2013 the foundation aims to be a catalyst for inspiring people to support conservation and welfare. YWP hold a special place in my heart and i always love any excuse to visit and see what new and inspirational work the park and foundation are currently carrying out.

“Create a dynamic, interactive experience and regional centre of excellence for the conservation of biodiversity globally and locally that is sustainable both for the environment and the business. To promote a wider understanding of the natural world and inspire generations to support and protect the world around them.” YWP Mission Statement

Following a recent trip to the park, i thought this would be the perfect opportunity to talk a bit about one of my favourite wildlife parks and raise some awareness on the amazing work that the park and foundation carry out to help endangered species across the world.

Conservation Mission

Despite the park and foundations infancy, it has made huge steps in the world of zoo conservation and animal welfare. Together the foundation and park currently support conservation work both in and ex situ for various species, including Polar bear (Ursus maritimus), Amur leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis), Painted dog (Lycaon pitcus), Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis) and Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus) and more!

Another species includes the Endangered Amur Tiger (Panthera tigris altaica), a species which is thought to have only around 500 individuals remaining in the wild.  YWP foundation works and supports the Amur Leopard and Tiger Alliance (ALTA), a charity that is committed to the conservation work for both Amur leopard and Tigers in Eastern Russia. The park is part of a European Breeding Programme which in March 2015 saw the addition of three cubs, Hector, Harley and Hope. This breeding programme is vital for the species as it provides an opportunity to carry out research which can be applied to the tigers wild counterparts, while also spreading awareness for the plight these tigers face and raise vital funds. In addition to this in 2015 the YWP foundation granted a huge £18K to fund a rescue and rehabilitation centre for injured tiger cubs, at Alekseevka in Russia.  This is just one example of the amazing and heart warming conservation work that YWP and the foundation carry out to help endangered species.

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Animal Welfare

In addition to conservation work the park and foundation has a strong passion towards animal welfare, more importantly improving the welfare of captive animals, providing them the best life possible whilst in captivity.  Through this the foundation supports various animal welfare projects across the world. These collaborations have lead to the park being the new home for various species, who had previously been held in pretty awful conditions.

The latest example of this is four endangered Ussuri Brown bears that in July of this year, 2018, found themselves being re-homed by YWP at their brand new state of the art rehabilitation centre. The four bears, Riku, Kai, Hanako and Amu were previously housed in outdated concrete cages at the Ainu Cultural Museum on Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan. It is said that YWP staff and local experts spent an estimated seven hours moving the four bears from their concrete cages into specially constructed travel crates. After the best part of two days travelling the bears reached YWP and they have been going from strength to strength, stepping on grass for the first time and no longer being kept in cramped cages.

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These amazing bears are not the only animals to have been re-homed by YWP.  Others include the parks pride of African lions (Panthera leo) which were rescued from filthy concrete pens in a zoo in Romania.

One of the parks most popular and successful projects is Project Polar. Working in conjunction with Yorkshire Wildlife Park Foundation and Polar Bears International (PBI), Project Polar combines conservation, welfare and education to work towards saving and improving the welfare of the Polar Bear.  The park and foundation aim to develop a international centre for conservation and rehabilitation for polar bears in both captivity and in the wild. Their work includes rescuing bears from substandard conditions, as well as working with other zoos to improve their welfare practices. The park currently houses four bears, Vistor, Pixel, Nissan and Noddy. All four are housed in the parks project polar reserve that was built and designed to reflect the habitat of the summer Arctic Tundra or that of South Hudson Bay. Where wild polar bear populations can spend up to 7 months of the year, with temperatures up to 26 degrees C, not the snow and ice you’d expect.

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YWP must sees!

I do have a few personal favourites at the park though, ones that i always need to see at least twice during my visits. These are the lemurs (obviously!), the park currently holds a troop of Endangered Ring-Tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) and a new breeding pair of Vulnerable Red Bellied Lemurs (Eulemur rubriventer).  Would it even be a zoo trip without seeing the lemurs?!

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Yorkshire wildlife park really is one of my favourite zoos/wildlife parks in the UK, not just for the animals they hold or it’s location, but the parks ethos, mission and dedication. A dedication to helping make a change to not just species lives but the lives of individual animals. If you are ever in the Yorkshire area i can’t recommend the park enough, you just have to see it for yourself.

Till next time

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