You can’t visit the area without a trip to Paignton Zoo. It’s a great day out, beautifully landscaped and you’re supporting a great cause too. Here’s a little its interesting history and how it became one of the country’s top zoos.
Paignton Zoo was started by eccentric millionaire Herbert Whitley and opened to the public in 1923 - its remits of conservation, scientific research and education are rooted in these early years. Herbert strongly believed that the Zoo should be a place of learning, not just recreation. On his death in 1955, a Trust was formed that became the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust.
Paignton Zoo was at the beginning of the modern zoo movement. Philip Michelmore - Whitley’s friend and successor - was instrumental in founding the Zoo Federation (now the British & Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums), the body that represents top zoos in this country. Similar organisations formed at European and global levels, and this helped pave the way for co-operation between zoos around the world.
Over the years the zoo’s name has changed a number of times. Originally known as Torbay Zoological Gardens, it became Primley Zoological Gardens and then Devon’s Zoo and Circus (during World War II) and later Paignton Zoological and Botanical Gardens (it was the first combined botanical and zoological gardens in the world). It was named Paignton Zoo
Environmental Park in 1996, marking the start of a £6m redevelopment programme funded by the European Regional Development Fund and by the sale of land.
Paignton Zoo Environmental Park tries to live up to its name. They try to set an example to visitors and test out ideas that can help the planet. These range from solar panels and composting to ethical trading and avoiding wherever possible the use of palm oil (plantations are destroying orang utan habitat in South East Asia).
Some of the more unusual ideas include biological pest control in off-show greenhouses, a reed bed water filtration system and biomass heating in the Crocodile Swamp. The front entrance building has a living roof. These initiatives have won them several awards.
We also have Living Coasts in Torquay (just in the harbour) which is another great attraction. Buy a joint ticket for both attractions to get up to 25% off!