£400k tourism boost at Banham zoo
Gentle giants with the softest brown eyes stole the show today as Banham Zoo celebrated its 40th birthday by unveiling a new giraffe house. The £400,000 project marks the biggest investment yet for the zoo, which started out as a small collection of colourful pheasants on a family farm and has developed into one of the UK's top wildlife parks with more than 200,000 visitors a year.
Gentle giants with the softest brown eyes stole the show today as Banham Zoo celebrated its 40th birthday by unveiling a new giraffe house.
The £400,000 project marks the biggest investment yet for the zoo, which started out as a small collection of colourful pheasants on a family farm and has developed into one of the UK's top wildlife parks with more than 200,000 visitors a year.
Zoo director Martin Goymour's delight in introducing his new charges - Hannah, Aisling, Fiona and Jonathan - shone through as one of the giraffes snaked out her long blue-black tongue and delicately picked a willow twig from the feed bucket he was holding.
“We have in our care some of the world's most beautiful and yet vulnerable species with which mankind is privileged to share this planet and yet, due to mankind's insatiable greed for resources - by a species which breeds unchecked with no predators - all other species of life on this planet face an uncertain future,” he said.
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“I have been fortunate that for the past 40 years I have been able to redress the balance a little bit. I can assure you that if I did not think that what we do at Banham Zoo has some positive benefit for wildlife conservation I would not be doing it, and would be financially better off.”
Mr Goymour is especially proud of the zoo's success at helping safeguard endangered big cats - becoming the first in the UK to breed endangered Sri Lankan leopards which have just produced a second litter. There are also high hopes that the zoo's new Siberian tiger and her mate will follow suit, as well as a young pair of snow leopards soon to be re-housed in a huge ergonomic marquee-style structure.
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Its construction will hopefully not be affected by this week's high winds which made it impossible for the zoo to complete the Zarafa Heights raised walkway to the giraffe house in time for today's celebration - despite determined efforts by Charles Snowling, the parks construction and maintenance manager, and his team.
“For once, and only once, Charlie and his crew have been beaten by the severe extremes of weather, and Zarafa Heights is just 20ft short of completion. It would have been completed this morning. However, after the third time Charlie became airborne it was decided that we would not risk the rest of his team,” explained Mr Goymour, adding that it will finished by Saturday's official opening.
He likened modern-day zoos to a “flotilla of arks” working together to achieve so much both at grass roots level and in the support given to conservational work undertaken in the wild.