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The work of the Trust
Our work at Shaldon Wildlife Trust is vital to the long-term survival of many animals at risk of extinction in their natural habitat.
The animals here benefit from a very high standard of care. From the design of exhibits to nutrition and veterinary support, we are able to maintain a diverse collection of healthy animals. Through the specialist care of our dedicated staff and volunteers, we contribute to the long-term survival of species through regular breeding.
None of our animals have been taken from the wild; the majority were born in our zoo or come from other collections taking part in specific breeding programmes to ensure their survival.
Our mission is...
- "To be a proactive contributor to the preservation of the wildlife of the planet"
We achieve this by...
- The sustained breeding of rare and endangered species in our care
- Raising awareness through community education to the widest possible audience
- Instigating and facilitating appropriate research to improve our animals' welfare
- Supporting and encouraging the conservation of species within their natural habitats
Originally a children's zoo, started by Ken and Trudi Smith in the 1960’s, the site was taken over in 1979 by Stewart Muir and his then partner.
"I started my first job at the tender age of 15 in the Bird house at the London zoo. I then had several other animal-related jobs including Harrods' pet department when they still had what they termed 'the zoo' and Sheikhs could order anything from an ostrich to an elephant. Frustrated at not being able to find a zoo-related job I started to look around without much success for a piece of ground to start a small bird garden. When I'd just about given up on the idea, by chance I found an advert on the back of the Dalton's Weekly saying 'Small Children's Zoo For Sale... includes all animals plus one truculent billy goat', and so I became the owner of Shaldon Zoo".
The zoo was formed into a Charitable Trust for the conservation of smaller endangered species in 1985 and since then, despite its small size, has built up a considerable reputation within the zoo community.
Stewart was Director at Shaldon for 25 years until 2003 when he became Director of Newquay Zoo. Stewart is still closely involved with the Trust and is Honorary Director. Tracey Moore, who worked with the Trust for many years, took over as Director in 2003, before taking a role at Banham zoo in Norfolk in 2012.
Since then, new director Nic Dunn runs the zoo with Head Keeper Jenna Crawford, Keeper Carly Murray, Education and Research Officer Julie Matthews and a team of over 40 volunteers and students. Nic has been involved with the Trust since he was very young. Growing up in the village, he spent much of his youth as a volunteer and went on to work at the Trust as keeper and curator after finishing college. He then went to work
in Africa with Primates and birds of prey, before returning to the UK.
The Trust prides itself on the number of rare and critically endangered species which have been bred here over the years including: Golden lion tamarins, Yellow-breasted capuchins, Ruffed, Ring-tailed and Fat-tailed dwarf lemurs, Madagascan giant jumping rats, Pied tamarins, Azara’s agoutis and many more.
Over the years we have gained a great deal of expertise of small mammals and have been an active participant in the management of breeding programmes and husbandry forums throughout the UK and Europe. We are recognised as one of the top zoos in the UK for the conservation of critically endangered primates. It is a great credit to our staff and volunteers over the years that the Trust is held in high regard within the zoo community and that despite our small size we have been a leader in shaping the role of zoos in the UK.
Following the success of our new extension, opening much of the Trust for wheelchair access for the first time, we are in need of developing the next area of the zoo. This involves a huge amount of fundraising in order to refurbish six enclosures housing our Ring-tailed lemurs, Margay and Parrots as well as the critically endangered Gentle lemurs and building a new enclosure for a group of small South American primates. At the same time, we hope to provide further access for wheelchair users and create undercover viewing areas for rainy days.
At present, there are many species that are kept at the zoo which are nocturnal. In the few zoos that have nocturnal houses, these animals live indoors in accommodation with reverse lighting so that people can see them during the day. Shaldon Wildlife Trust wishes to do something truly unique by opening the zoo at night. By mixing diurnal (daytime) animals with nocturnal animals in the same enclosures, we can simulate nature with a "day shift" and a "night shift" and offer visitors a unique and exciting attraction.
The Trust's gardens are set amongst the mature woodland of the Ness headland, providing a tranquil natural background for our animals. So no matter what time of year garden-lovers will always find something of interest in our grounds, you can read more about our gardens and discover some of the unusual species you will encounter by visiting our Native wildlife conservation page.