Sunday, 7 November 2010

Yorkshire Wildlife Park, Branton, Doncaster

A rescue lioness from Romania at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park

A great day out with the rescue lions!

This is a fantastic place that’s still developing, which may be why it was so difficult to find! Regardless, the visit leaves you with the feel good factor of knowing that the entrance fee is contributing to the upkeep of two prides of rescue lions from Romania.

The best thing about this wildlife park is that it doesn’t feel like a zoo. At the heart of the whole arrangement is a woodland walk inviting you to look out for hedgehogs, toadstools and even badgers! The lemurs and wallabies roam freely amongst the visitors in their designated areas, and they do approach to sniff you inquisitively although you are advised not to touch. Additionally there is a goat and sheep contact area where you can do just that. It’s all rather magical.

Yet there is much more too: The painted hunting dogs with their striking look and distinctive markings are a must see as are the surreal red river hogs whose peculiar ears stick out at right angles on occasion. An African Plains area contains Chapman’s zebra, ostrich and Ankole cattle amongst other species and there are Bactrian camels here too. There are cheeky meerkats and sly mongoose as well as an animals up close area where staff deliver talks and demonstrations at regular intervals. There is a good programme of events throughout the day including opportunities to watch and possibly take part in feeding times. The park rangers make every effort to facilitate contact with the animals where possible.

However the stars of the show have to be the lions. They have their own space aptly titled ‘Lion Country’ and you access here between two tall, grand pillars. There is a trench and a fence between visitors and these magnificent beasts but you do get to see them clearly as they come quite close to the perimeter as well as sitting resplendently upon the natural elevations there. At sunset it almost felt as if you were out on the plains of Africa with them. Lots of interesting information about their difficult and inspiring history and the lions themselves is clearly displayed which really adds to the experience.

Yorkshire wildlife park is an amazing work in progress. A South American walkthrough area is due to open in January 2011 and many more animals are expected in the future, including tigers.

This is a private initiative funded by the investors of Woburn safari park and if the current set up is anything to go by they will be turning a profit very soon, this was borne out by the staff that we spoke to. Perhaps this is why Doncaster council have been unwilling to provide any heritage signs from the motorways to date. We were told that the park had to attract a certain number of visitors before this would happen. A situation that seems bizarre to say the least.

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I have always enjoyed problem solving for friends and family and as a teacher for the last 18 years this is part of what I do every day. During the last year I have been rediscovering a passion for writing and I have recently produced a short story and several reviews for my blog - Places to visit and eat/drink in Leeds, Yorkshire UK. I am also offering my services as a freelance writer.