Exmoor Zoo took over the run down Bird Gardens, which had been operating since 1982, in April 1993. Danny and Lynn Reynolds and the family have achieved great things in the intervening years by renovating existing enclosures and building new exhibits of mammals, birds and reptiles on a year to year basis. This makes it, the very different and unique attraction that it is today. All of this, despite the heartbreaking setback in May 1993 (after only one month of moving in) of a gang of 6 thieves stealing 25 marmosets and tamarins and 4 pairs of parrots, representing nearly 10 years of preparatory work.
Exmoor Zoo began back in 1993 with 2 staff and 10,000 visitors and has consistently grown every year since. Trees and shrubs growing today were planted back in 1994 and 95, using the central naturally fed spring lake as a focal point. Today 40,000 people visit annually, enjoying the friendly relaxed and natural atmosphere of the zoo. Over 14 staff, a head keeper and education officer all endeavour to instil the importance of looking after the environment and respect for the habitat of native and exotic animals. This is obvious as you explore the zoo as there are now over 35 breeding programs to maintain the captive population of endangered species! This breeding and encouraging respect for the animals is now a very important part of the work.
The African Café seating over 75 diners, the Reptile House and souvenir sales area were built in 2003. The Howler monkey exhibit and tortoise house were constructed in 2006, while Cheetah and Maned Wolf enclosures were developed in the winter of 2004. 2007 saw the development of the Exmoor Beast exhibit.
Regular visitor over the years will have seen incredible changes and additions to the zoo, some of which have come from feedback given either verbally or in writing but most from the combined vision of all the staff and volunteers, past and present. Come and see.
The Exmoor Zoo Timeline
1982 - 1992 :: The beginning
A small farm comprising of 7 acres and a cottage was developed initially as a bird garden in 1982.
Further land was acquired in 1985 and the core of the zoo, 12 acres in all at that time came into being.
The Bird Gardens was sold in 1987 at the peak of the property market and with the subsequent collapse (Black Monday), suffered from re-investment problems until 1992 when it was placed in receivership.
1993 - 1995 :: Current new ownership begins
1993 witnessed new owners and the re-opening of the Gardens, along with the subsequent robbery.
1995 saw in a change of purpose. No longer content with the old tired image, the zoo was renamed Exmoor Animal & Bird Gardens and became a member of The Federation of British and Irish Zoos www.biaza.org.uk. A change of purpose and intent had occurred. After 2 years trading under this name came the realisation that the modern British zoo's were no longer the Victorian image of the past and a decision made to accept the fact that Exmoor zoo was just that - a modern British zoo!
1995 - 1997 :: Gradual development and planting
These three images are from our bottom 3 acre field. On the zoo guide map today enclosures 29 to 38 occur in this area and the planting has matured!
1997 was the year the collection became known as Exmoor Zoological Park, shortened today to just Exmoor Zoo.
1999 - 2001 :: Initial commercial development
1999 saw the extension of the commercial block, tripling the size of the existing cafeteria to 36 seats and the creation of the outside patio picnic area.
2001 added accompanying fields (managed for native wildlife) to the zoo for future expansion
2003 - 2005 :: Reconstruction of entire zoo entrance, café and reptile house
2003-4 had major upheaval! The entire entrance of the zoo was re-designed and built. This included the Reptile House, African Café, Reception and souvenirs.
The zoo entrance after construction in 2006
2004-5 introduced Cheetah and Maned Wolves to the collection, which has begun a move in emphasis towards exhibiting slightly larger animals.
This is an image of Dave our cheetah at 9 months of age when he first arrived in July 2004
2006 :: Tortoise and Howler monkey exhibits
2006 had the Tortoise House completed and unfortunately a second robbery, targeting the small primates and parrots again.
This has again enforced the emphasis in the zoo towards larger animals and Howler monkeys were displayed in the zoo for the first time!
2007 The Exmoor Beast!
Building the Exmoor Beast enclosure 2007 heralded the Return of the Exmoor Beast to North Devon
2008 -2010 was a period of refurbishment and reconstruction throughout the zoo. The following are images of some of the projects undertaken.
Works solidifying banks on the centre lake due to wind erosion on the edges and a finished image from 2011
Viewing positions were created in the lower section of the zoo overlooking the sitatunga and cheetah enclosures
Cheetah tower Sitatunga pier
This is an image of the original meerkat enclosure just before demolition in 2008. The second image is the current exhibit taken in 2012 -what a differenece!
2012 & 13 has been a continual upgrade of the enclosure standards and the final completion of the encounter zone
The internal enclosure for our Sitatunga was also finally completed in the spring of 2013. The project took three years to complete and these images show the concrete hard standing at the beginning of the build and the finished outside living accomodation for what we hope will be the start of a herd of sitatunga joining our two males in the near future!
2014 -15 will be the intention of the zoo to continue with phase 2 of the new development of our adjacent field below the playground. Initially creating a larger paddock for our tapir.
The future, well we have a grand plan but it is over to you! Come and visit because without you, we can not continue!