Near Winchester, and a 22-minute drive from us, is 14-acre Marwell Zoo, which is home to hundreds of animals including Amur tigers, zebras, Humboldt penguins, pygmy hippos, rhinos, cheetahs, giraffes, monkeys, meerkats and kangaroos.
The zoo was founded by businessman John Knowles in 1972 and was one of the earliest zoos in Europe to place an emphasis on animal conservation. Within a few years, it had become an important breeding centre for several species close to extinction such as the Mongolian wild horse, the snow leopard and the Siberian tiger.
Marwell’s newest and biggest exhibit, Wild Explorers, allows visitors to experience the African wilderness first hand. The exhibit is home to three iconic species – white rhinos, scimitar-horned oryx and Grevy’s zebra – which are being conserved at Marwell. The raised observation boardwalk gives a great view of these animals, and is a good spot for taking wildlife photography.
Marwell also has a walk-through aviary where guests can see a fantastic range of colourful and exotic birds. And, for the very brave, there is a reptile corner, which is home to the venomous reticulate Gila monster and the Madagascan tree boa, both of which are protected by the European endangered species breeding programme.
There is enough going on at Marwell to keep the whole family entertained for the day. There are daily talks and activities, five adventure playgrounds, road and rail trains for help getting around, a restaurant, and a gift shop and art gallery.
The zoo is owned by Marwell Wildlife, an animal charity leading conservation programmes in the UK and Africa. Visitors can support the charity through donation, with £1.20 buying a coconut to enrich a gibbon’s day, and £1,500 buying a new heated operating table for Marwell’s veterinary surgery.