We were lucky enough to be given tickets to Wingham Wildlife Park, near Canterbury in Kent, from a friend who had won them in a competition. Since she was 6 months old our daughter has always loved seeing animals and was able to name many of them from a young age. Even now she likes to sit down and look at our animal encyclopaedia and ask about different animals, so naturally we jumped at the opportunity to visit Wingham Wildlife Park.
Wingham Wildlife Park opened in 1986 with a small collection of aviary birds, and over the years more and more animals were added to the park. In February 2008 the park ownership changed hands, with the following 3 years seeing the collection grow by almost 100 new species, including numerous animals which are of high conservation interest. We noticed that some of the animals who had been rescued from circus’ (such as the parks two lions) and animal testing laboratories.
We have been to a several zoos / wildlife parks over the past two years and generally have mixed feelings. The places with smaller animals (such as Drusilla’s in Sussex) seem much better in terms of animal welfare, than those with bigger animals. I imagine it’s easier to recreate the natural habitat of a small animal, than something as big as Tiger, but I don’t proclaim to be an expert on the subject.
Wingham is in the same area of Kent as the nationally renowned Apsinall Foundation’s parks Howlett’s and Port Lympne, who are known for their strong focus on conservation, so it’s not surprising that until recent years we had not heard of Wingham before. Recently however we had heard through word of mouth that the park was very good and worth a visit with young children.
The park is medium sized and was very clean throughout. All staff we came across were very friendly and welcoming. There is a large variety of animals on display from reptiles, otters, parrots, primates, big cats and wolves. For the majority of the animals the enclosures seemed a decent enough size. The primates including the lemurs all look in good condition and generally happy with their surroundings. You could also get close enough to the animals to really have a good look at them. We particularly enjoyed looking at the chimps who Wingham Wildlife Park rescued from medical laboratories. They had a huge enclosure with indoor and outdoor sections. This did mean that you couldn’t always see them, but this is preferable to seeing them in a small enclosure. It really is fascinating looking at the chimps and it’s no surprise we share 99% DNA with them. There is intelligence in their eyes which you don’t see in other animals.
Wingham is also home to some impressive big cats including two tigers, two lions and two pumas. We really enjoyed looking at them especially the tigers. Our daughter found it amazing how they had similar characteristics to our cat Barnaby but were obviously 5 times bigger! The only issue all day was that two of the big cats (a Tiger and Puma) were pacing in their respective enclosures, which I believe can be a sign of stress. It did make me wonder whether it would be more humane if they were in a much bigger park with more space to roam.
A recent addition to the park is a Dinosaur area which includes a large number of animatronic dinosaurs, a sandpit / dig area and some great photo opportunities. We enjoyed walking around this section and reading the different profiles of each species of dinosaur. Let’s face it, kids love Dinosaurs!
Wingham also has a picnic area, so we took our own lunch. Wingham do sell food but we didn’t look at this. Alongside the animals there is also a play area and indoor soft play which our daughter enjoyed charging around for 30 minutes whilst we had a rest.
Overall we enjoyed our time at Wingham Wildlife Park, it’s a nice sized wildlife park ideal for young children, especially with the soft play and Dinosaur area, but our day was slightly tainted by the sight of two of the big cats pacing. The owners of the park are obviously coming from a good place as the cats physical welfare wasn’t an issue. There is a large emphasis on conservation and rescuing animals from inhumane environments, which I can’t fault but I do wonder whether animals such as big cats should be in a larger environment.