Quick Info Page

Park History

About South Lakes Safari Zoo:

Well it’s about the animals really –  over 1,000 of the rarest, most endangered animals in unique natural environments which enable the visitor to get as close as physically possible to  experience the sights, sounds, and a few smells, of these amazing creatures we share our planet with.

.. And the experience..A natural park with free roaming animals, where over 300,000 annual visitors wander amongst kangaroos, wallabies, emus; are amazed as free flying macaws soar overhead; walk in, and interact, with free roaming lemurs, squirrel monkeys, cotton topped tamarins;  bravely  venture in where condors and vultures fly free; watch Big cats including tigers, lions, jaguars hunt for their lunch; hand feed giraffes, penguins, lemurs every day .

..Then it’s about conservationWith 2 international conservation charities, The Wildlife Protection Foundation and The Sumatran Tiger Trust , working to save species, communities and habitats  all over the world, from building water wells for villages in Africa, funding anti poaching patrols in Sumatra, rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing bears, condors, vultures, penguins, primates back to the wild in Colombia, Peru and South America we are probably the best conservation park in the UK and Don’t just talk about Conservation we get out there and do it!


South Lakes Wild Animal Park is a private zoo created, designed, owned and developed by David Gill.   At the time of the construction back in 1993/4, he was an animal nutritionist with no connections to zoo’s, but a desire to see education and conservation brought into the public awareness by the reality of a close, wild experience, an experience for all to react to assist worldwide conservation issues. The then 32-year-old father of two, built the park with his own hands and to this day, still designs and builds all the facilities around the zoo now with the help and assistance of the large staff.

1993:  Started construction in November.

1994:  The park opened to the public on 28th May 1994, it was a fraction of the experience it is today but still held the visitors in wonder at the freedom that the animals were given in a natural environment. Wallabies, Antelope, Guanacos, Raccoons, Coatis, Parrots, Pheasants and Ducks held the stage.

1995:  55,000 visitors entered the park and experienced the development of the Antelope facilities and Lemur enclosures. Free ranging Lemurs became a feature of this unique park.

1996:  101,000 visitors witnessed the arrival of the first Tiger to arrive at South Lakes, Toba, a Sumatran Tiger took up residence on 1st April. Then in December two Amur Tigers, Egor and Nina arrived in their new home. Fund raising started for Tiger conservation in the wild and it truly was the “year of the tiger” at South Lakes Wild Animal Park.

1997:  The start of the Australian experience. The first major leap into becoming the largest collection of Kangaroo species anywhere in the world. Cheetahs first arrived during this year when 150,000 people visited the park.

1998:  The arrival of the Rhinos took place in March, a major step in the development of the African region in the park.

1999:  This year saw the major development of the primate house and facilities. Ground breaking fencing and open environments that give the primates a unique facility within this zoo. 220,000 visitors in this year.

2000:  Our Giraffe facilities were completed and the Giraffes arrived giving the visitors to the park the sight of Africa: Giraffe, Rhinos, Zebra and Antelope all together . With another increase in visitors the park won the award for the top attraction in the Lake District for 1999 and 2000 back to back.

2001:  Sees new developments for Lemurs, Cats and other species. And preparations are under way for a major new exhibit for 2002.

2002:  We added to the major new exhibition of Spectacled Bears, by  welcoming a pride of Lions to their own enclosure.

2003: Sees the arrival of female rhinos, new to the park. New groups of lemurs, marmosets and monkeys along with a troop of Baboons to the African Plain and mixing them with the Rhinos and Giraffes.

2004: First breedings of Rodriguez Fruit Bat, Agile Wallaby, Siamang and Babirusa, all significant advances for the park and its programmes.

2005: Saw the arrival of Penguins, Mandrills and Pygmy Hippos, plus the new ‘Giraffe Walk’, enabling visitors to really get up close to the Giraffes, Rhinos and Baboons in their summer area. A Cheetah walk and new picnic area was completed to make major improvements. Visitor numbers were 30,000 up on 2004.

2006: Year 12 has seen the largest change in the park’s history with major works transforming all aspects of the park for the animals and the visitors. The new Wild Things Gift shop opened on 2nd April 2006.  A new shop twice the size of the previous one and specially designed and themed by a Danish company who are creating an African Village out of existing group of buildings and facilities.  The new Maki Restaurant on 2nd April 2006 A large completely new themed restaurant and outside eating area overlooking the African Savannah opened and compliments the massively improved picnic areas.

New Aerial walkways and viewpoints: Over 1/2 kilometer of new high level wooden walkways give visitors an amazing view of the animals from previously unimaginable angles and positions as well as make disabled access dramatically better to previously the most difficult areas. Condors and Vultures arrived and the 35ft high and their 120ft long free flight walk through aviary opened to the public!

By far the most important development was the surfacing of our second car park with Tarmacadam , this has been desperately needed for years and finally 2006 saw top class car parking for all its visitors. To add to this all the remaining gravel pathways are now tarmacadam to make wheelchair and push chair access far better. New access to all levels of the park are now completed.

 2007  A record breaking year with an extra 48,000 visitors – our best ever! Additional aerial walkways and viewpoints, progresses in the international breeding programmes included rare births, the arrival of a male Spectacled Bear and White Rhinocerous pregnancies announced.

The Magic of Christmas comes to South Lakes – Santa and Rudolf drop in for a truly spectacular Christmas. Lights, trees, nativity, Santa and reindeers hundreds of visitors joined with the park to celebrate a truly traditional Christmas.

2008 Park celebrates biggest birth in the history of the park –  White Rhino Nyala born 1.06.08  Additional covered picnic areas give visitors somewhere to relax; animals arrived in 2008 include  Scarlet ibis,  Capybara (arrived May) , Squirrel Monkeys (arrived – in quarrantine) Capuchin monkeys, new group of Spider Monkeys (arrived June).  Planning for a new hands on visitor experience underway.  Park wins Top Visitor Attraction for the 6th time.  Park celebrates births from every lemur species – first time ever!

2009: New arrivals include Flamingos, Glossy ibis, Scarlet Macaws.  Free roaming troops of Capuchin, Squirrel monkeys and Cotton Topped Tamarins are introduced.

2010: The park bid farewell to the Macaques and welcomed a host of exciting new arrivals including Sloths, Giant Otters, Lowland Pacas, Black Howler Monkeys, Prairie Marmots and Jaguars.  In 2010 we celebrated one of the most important births in the history of the park, and the parks programmes with the birth of one of the rarest and most endangered animals on the planet – a Sumatran tiger cub. MORE

2011: Over 300,000 visitors saw the arrival of the parks first female giraffes although young fingers are crossed for the group to produce calves in the future.   Other arrivals included Banded Mongoose, Saddle back Tamarin, Roseata Spoonbills.

2012: Snow Leopards joined the big cats here at the park.  New arrivals for 2013 included Tayra Black Vultures

2013: Following the granting of planning permission development which will see the park triple in size and the arrival of many new species, new encounters begins.