Dartmoor Zoo May Newsletter

Wednesday 3rd May 2017 at 10:20am by Rachel Franklin

CEO’s Update:


There were little glitches, and some sad events, such as the loss of two favourites from the animal collection, detailed below by Mike. But the show went on, thanks to every Head of Department running impeccable teams.

Vlad had a shaky couple of weeks off his food, but Hannah tirelessly fed him liquefied liver, even though he splashed it into her hair. His (phenomenally expensive) new meds should ensure that he has a comfortable summer (if anyone wants to sponsor this, it’s a great cause…). It’s always rewarding seeing the little blue-shirted rangers bustling round the zoo clutching their worksheets, and another welcome influx were the extra guests who came to see the open air cinema screening. Just as the day’s visitors were leaving, 350 extra people - some dressed in onesies - rocked up carrying camping chairs, and settled down to watch the Lion King, just to the right of the actual cheetahs, watching the audience from their hill. And as the dust settles on Easter we now also have a very exciting irrigation trench in the African paddock (it IS exciting), which should revolutionize next winter’s use of the field.  

Thanks to absolutely everybody, for working together seamlessly to ensure that all 4,593 people who visited the zoo during the holiday left happy, full of ice cream, unobtrusively educated, mildly euphoric, and in many cases, clutching a fluffy toy. Nicely done, everyone.



We work hard to create and maintain relationships with different Universities. Plymouth University has been especially kind to us over the past five years, even funding the DIAS POD next to the Iberian Wolf enclosure where students spend most of their time. This kind of relationship is critical for Dartmoor Zoo as without it, the zoo would simply have no research. Students make up 100% of the research base at the zoo at the moment. From courses ranging from Animal Science, Environmental Science to Psychology, we are able to work with them as well as their professors to develop projects that improve the purpose of this zoo. Plymouth University recently included us in their Student Life magazine here - https://goo.gl/ry5QYF


Animal Acquisitions:

Easter Sunday was not a good day for the Animal Department. Sadly on that day we lost two animals. The first was Max, the Runner Duck, who lived in the South American paddock. Max was quite special to the animal department staff, having been donated to us on November 1st 2010. He quickly became a favourite of the Keepers due to his habit of following you around, taking food from your hand, and just being Max! However, Max did us proud by fathering several offspring, so although he has now gone to that big pond in the sky, his legacy remains.

The second animal was Atti the Otter. Atti was born at Dartmoor Wildlife Park on November 4th 2002. She was a firm favourite with all who worked at the Zoo, and also with the regular visitors. Her screams of delight (or was it impatience?) at feed times could be heard all over the Zoo, and she was totally committed to being noisy. Although she never bred here we always hoped she would, but I do wonder how much louder she would have become shouting after her kids, and whether or not the kids would have been just like their Mum?!! Atti, you will be sorely missed, and the Zoo is not the same place without you.

Some good news now, and the Meerkat who had the broken leg has now had the external fixator removed, with no complications. Duncan McWhirter, our Vet, did a fantastic job on the leg, and now you would be hard pressed to identify which animal it was.

There have been some changes to the staff on the Animal Department recently. Sally Sheridan will be leaving in early May, and we take this opportunity to say thank you very much for your contribution to the Animal Department whilst you were here, we have certainly learned a lot from you. We have 2 new staff members joining us, with Ashley Matthews having started earlier this month, and Nicole Doidge starting at the end of this month. We look forward to seeing them settle in to their new roles, and that they too can make a positive contribution to the Animal Department.


Discovery and Learning Team:


The Discovery and Learning department has had a busy Easter. Our fundraising mission for our three chosen charities has gone well. We managed to row a large section of the Amazon River which raised enough money to buy 402 acres of protected rainforest in South America for the Majestic Jaguars. We also raised money for the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust and 21st Century Tiger who we have been supporting for over 5 years now.

We are approaching our busy season for school visits. To book a session with our qualified team of educators and meet some of our animals, fill in the booking form on our website and send to education@dartmoorzoo.co.uk. Don’t forget this year every student that visits and takes part in a workshop gets a free return visit to the zoo!

If you are interested in studying at the zoo, we are now recruiting students on our level 2 and level 3 Zoo Animal Management courses. These are for students aged 16 and above who are looking for an alternative to A-Levels. This is a brilliant route for those wanting to go into an animal career. We have had over 60 graduates now from the course who have gone onto paid employment as a keeper and onto university to do animal degrees. The course is based at Dartmoor Zoo three days a week and one day a week at Duchy College. If you would like more information or would like to apply for the course please visit the duchy college website: https://www.cornwall.ac.uk/duchycollege/animal-management-veterinary-nursing/zoo-animal-management-diploma or call the Discovery and Learning team at Dartmoor Zoo on 01752 837645.

Restaurant & Events News:


First and foremost, let’s start with celebrating a successful Easter holidays! With some fabulous weather, we saw lots of visitors from near and far.

April hosted our third wedding of 2017 (Congratulations to Alison and Martin!) and our first open air cinema. Despite having to make last minute provisions due to unforeseen circumstances preventing our caterer from attending, the event went well with some great feedback from customers. We look forward to hosting another on the 27th May screening Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone. See our website to book your tickets.

Here’s to hoping this fantastic weather continues for May bank holidays!



Maintenance: Maintaining...! More than any other, the Maintenance Department supports all other departments in its activity. (And causes some havoc too.)

This month has seen improvements to the large gate to the Main Yard, and door-systems hardware on the big cats. Staff and volunteers have been keeping the lawns looking great. We have installed a barrier and corrected ground drainage outside our unique soft play facility - in a converted double decker bus! We have also repaired old wounds on the bodywork making it weather-tight once again and open for business.

But most excitingly we have been enjoying the 5 tonne 360 swing shovel (usually pronounced “digger”) on hire from CBL Saltash for a great charity discount, thank you CBL. We have demolished loads of jobs with it: organising path drainage near the otters and at the entrance to the Walkthrough Enclosure, finishing the landscaping at the Capybara House and managing the storm drainage in the South American Paddock, installation of a land drain right across the African Paddock, managing the compost and starting the refurb of the entrance to Main Yard. It’s been a great week.

ALTHOUGH... we did manage to wreck the cable supplying the Front Gate with electricity. On Good Friday. Ten minutes before opening. But everyone pulled together and we got through.

Quick favour – we are recruiting volunteers. Who do you know that is skilled or semi-skilled with some time spare, who may enjoy the kind of thing we do on Maintenance? Tell them to get in touch!


And one last item…..

Fundraising is a really important part of maintaining the upkeep of the zoo. We now have an Easyfundraising account which helps us raise funds through the purchasing of on line goods from a large range of suppliers (Amazon, Thompson, Next etc) . If you would like to help donate to the zoo every time you make a purchase through these retailers then please log on to:


Thank you.


Key Dates for the Diary…             

Harry Potter - The Philosopher’s Stone

Open Air Cinema Screening

27th May 2017

Wedding Fair 11th June 2017