25th anniversary celebrations!
We celebrate our 25th anniversary on 23 March 2019 and are marking this milestone event with a variety of commemorative activities featured throughout the year.
This is a historic anniversary for us after first opening our doors in 1994. Despite being a well-known landmark for the local area, you may not be aware of our humble beginnings. We first opened with just a Butterfly house, a nature wildlife trail and a small shop and café.
The Butterfly House opened on a shoestring on 23 March 1994, as a 4.5 acre siie during an economic depression with three employees, butterflies, peacocks, a tarantula spider and a snake followed by barn owls, an eagle owl and later in its first season, goats and chickens. Discovering in that very first year that the key to future success could be allowing its visitors to handle and get closer to the animals they love, this very same ethos remains our USP today!
Since then the park has doubled in size and visitor numbers. We continue our fundraising endeavours for worldwide endangered species, but closer to home the park is an oasis for native wildlife. The purpose-built pond environments have attracted the likes of the great crested newt, the common newt, frog and toad a well as grass snakes. With over 100 nest boxes on site the park is also a refuge for a variety of birds including the tree sparrow, a red data species, which has successfully seen one breeding pair in 1998 grow to forty pairs last spring. It doesn’t stop there, we also own three other conservation sites in South Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and the Peak District, managed with wildlife in mind to help protect and encourage native species.
Having seen many changes to the wildlife park over the last 25 years there have been some memorable experiences along the way. The Lemur Heights enclosure was opened in summer 2013 by the late Barry Chuckle of The Chuckle Brothers, a much-missed visitor and supporter of the park. The enclosure took around six months to construct with the building work completed almost entirely by the dedicated staff and is now home to ring-tailed and red-ruffed lemurs.
A 20-year-old Caiman called Darwin holds the title of the park’s longest resident arriving in 1999. Darwin was 200m long and lived in a fish tank when he was brought to the centre and can still be seen here now with his partner Pedra!
We will be hosting a year-long celebration of silver anniversary activities including a birthday cake for the animals on its birthday weekend. Our social media platforms will share memorable stories from our visitors and staff from the past 25 years encouraging everyone to share their own #mybutterflymoment capturing the excitement of their hands-on experiences at the park!