Our History

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 45,000+ people visit annually, enjoying the friendly relaxed and natural atmosphere of the zoo. Over 14 staff, a curator and education team 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 visitors 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.

Our Timeline

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.

Current new ownership begins

1993 witnessed new owners and the re-opening of the Gardens, along with the subsequent robbery

A new beginning

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 would be modern British zoo!

A new name

1997 was the year the collection became known as Exmoor Zoological Park, shortened today to just Exmoor Zoo.


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

Major upheaval!

The entire entrance of the zoo was re-designed and built. This included the Reptile House, African Café, Reception and souvenirs.

2004-5 introduced Cheetah and Maned Wolves to the collection, which has begun a move in emphasis towards exhibiting slightly larger animals.

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!

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 viewing platform were constructed

Viewing positions were created in the lower section of the zoo overlooking the sitatunga and cheetah enclosures.

The Growing Zoo!

2014 -15

Phase 2 of the planning application for our adjacent field creating a larger paddock for our tapirs, the great grey owl aviary and hunting dog and wolverine enclosures was begun.

2016 - now

The more recent years have seen a slowing down of new developments as the zoo has to refurbish & repair some of the original build. Singing dog & serval enclosures in the lower Devon field are the last of the major new construction works.

The future, well we have a grand plan but it is over to you! Come and visit because without you, we can not continue!