Shaldon Wildlife Trust

Shaldon Wildlife Trust

Shaldon Wildlife Trust

Golden lion tamarins, fat-tailed dwarf lemurs, Madagascan giant jumping rats: just some of the species you will find at Shaldon Wildlife Trust. The small zoo, set in a secluded acre of woodland on the hillside above Shaldon, looks after and preserves some of the rarest and most endangered animals known to man. For only £18, a family can immerse themselves into the lush semi-tropical planting and learn about anything from yellow-breasted capuchins to Azara’s agoutis. As a small zoo, Shaldon Wildlife Trust does focus on smaller animals, and, if anything, this has enhanced their reputation among the wildlife elites. Shaldon is now considered one of the best zoos in the UK for the conservation of critically endangered primates. The reserve is also the smallest member of the British Association of Zoos and Aquaria (BIAZA and EAZA). With only 3 paid staff, and an almost total dependence on their 40+ volunteers and students, this is no mean feat for the Wildlife Trust.

What makes Shaldon Wildlife Trust even more striking is its modest beginnings. Ken and Trudi Smith originally opened the park as a children’s zoo in the 1960’s, it was then taken over by Stewart Muir and his partner at the time, in 1979. Stewart markedly remembers that a variety of animals were mentioned in the snippet for Shaldon zoo, including ‘one truculent billy goat’. In 1985 the zoo was made into a Charitable Trust for smaller endangered species and although Steward has finished his 25 year stint as Director, he still plays a predominant role in the trust as Honorary Director, with Tracey Moore filling his shoes at Shaldon. Such perseverance has won the zoo a fantastic reputation, and Shaldon Wildlife Trust is actively involved in the management of breeding programmes and husbandry forums throughout Europe.

The Trust has ambitious plans to expand and, having gained some nearby land in 2010 as well as planning permission to build an extension, it is possible to build larger enclosures for the animals, as well as better educational facilities and a veterinary examination room. Education is fundamental for the Trust, and the current investments will allow more of this to take place on site. Other aspirations for the Trust include opening the zoo at night, providing an insightful nocturnal experience for their creatures and customers.

The gardens themselves have been cultivated to be vibrant and diverse. From gingers and bananas to palms and bamboos, the vegetation is a world apart from traditional Devon moorland. Oriental lilies grow alongside trees from Australia and echiums from New Zealand, yet in spring the woodland retains its quaint English appearance. The Butterfly Garden enjoys such rusticity all year round. Foxgloves, bluebells, holly and hazel have all been planted to attract native wildlife.

A short trundle along the A379 to Teignmouth will bring you to this wonderful sanctuary. None of the mammals, birds and reptiles are taken from the wild and thanks to co-ordinated breeding, nutrition expertise and veterinary care, they are in the best hands possible. All they need now, is a visit from you! Visit http://www.shaldonwildlifetrust.org.uk/ for more information!

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