From “UK’s worst zoo” to Paradise Wildlife Park
From once known as “the UK’s worst zoo” to one of Hertfordshire’s top tourist attractions, this has been a roller coaster ride for Paradise Wildlife Park.
The White Stubbs Lane Family Zoo celebrated its 37th anniversary on April 1, 2021, and it has been an incredible journey since 1984.
If you had arrived at Broxbourne Zoo 37 years ago, you would have found nothing but rubble and a lone lion in a cage.
Today, the site has over 800 happy and healthy animals surrounded by a dedicated team.
Tigers, lions, red pandas, penguins, reptiles, camels … the animal park is home to a wide variety of species alongside neighboring creatures from the World of Dinosaurs.
After 12 difficult months due to coronavirus closures, Paradise Wildlife Park reopens on Monday April 12.
The zoo is a beacon for conservation and has created wonderful habitats for its big cats and other endangered species – with the new Land of the Tigers being the first of its kind in the country with tigers Aleena and Siberia sharing the enclosure with the grass carp and koi carp.
This year, Sun Bear Heights will open at Paradise Wildlife Park. It will be the first habitat in the UK to house solar bears, otters and binturongs in a single habitat.
Without the dedication of the various PWP teams, the zoo near Welwyn Hatfield could not have become the much admired park it is today.
This mentality has been at the heart of Paradise Wildlife Park since 1984.
When the time called for everyone to work together to help Bobby the Lion, the office workers, bus drivers, and neighbors all came together.
Lynn Whitnall, Managing Director of Paradise Wildlife Park and Director of the Zoological Society of Hertfordshire charity, looks back on those early days and how it shaped her into the woman she is today.
Lynn said: âMy first memory is Bobby the lion spraying me on a hot summer day while I was working at the zoo.
“My second memory is sleeping in the barn with the pot-bellied pig because he was very sick and needed a needle inserted to release the gas from his stomach during the night which was an absolute delight!”
From the humble beginnings of the park, this true passion for the conservation and welfare of wildlife has continued from generation to generation.
Brothers Aaron, Tyler and Cam Whitnall are now heavily involved in Paradise. The siblings even had their own CBBC TV show ‘One zoo three’ Last year.
âI think the passionate, caring, family-friendly community sums up Paradise Wildlife Park,â Lynn said.
âI am very proud of what has been accomplished over the 37 years by our family and all the different teams and volunteers.
âPlus our accomplishments in breeding, education and conservation around the world, but most importantly, seeing our visitors having fun as a family. ”
It is clear that these feelings are also found in the various departments of Paradise Wildlife Park.
There is a common misconception that zoos are run only by caretakers. However, this is not the case.
Paradise Wildlife Park relies on a base of expert employees who specialize in zoo maintenance, gardens, maintenance, park services, catering, retail and administration.
Lucy, of Park Services, said: âThe team here is like their own family. Working at Paradise Wildlife Park has made me more confident as a person. “
Zookeeper Bethany said, âI love working for Paradise Wildlife Park because it’s a family business.
âIt’s a tight-knit community here and we see the owners every day, as well as being involved in the decisions.
âWe see Paradise Wildlife Park participating in conservation projects overseas and we also work with many endangered animals here in the park every day. “
Another zookeeper, Claire, said: âI have been here at Paradise Wildlife Park for 25 years, from work experience level to full time zookeeper. It’s basically like a second family.
“All the staff, keepers and animals all work together. I love working with such a variety of different animals, from hooves to reptiles and big cats, there is always something to learn and enjoy.”
Matt, from the maintenance team, said, âI love working at Paradise Wildlife Park because of the variety of jobs I can do in various parts of the park, as well as working with the animals themselves.
“I also have the privilege of working with such fantastic people.”
Anna, from Marketing, said: âWorking at Paradise Wildlife Park has given me confidence not only as a marketer, but also as a person.
“I am very honored to say that I have made lifelong friends and great teammates.
“I love that I can promote such a wonderful message of animal welfare, conservation and education, while making it fun and engaging for everyone.”
As it reopens to the public on April 12 after the third national lockdown, Paradise Wildlife Park needs this community, friendship and love for animals more than ever.
Love of animals is what kept the zoo afloat in 2020.
Not just staff and volunteers, but also incredible supporters of the zoo.
Paradise has received food deliveries, incredible handwritten letters of support, donations to its JustGiving page, press coverage and fantastic engagement on its social media pages.
Lynn thanked the incredible supporters of Paradise.
“Without the commitment of our family and team we would not be where we are today, and they should all be exceptionally proud of Paradise Wildlife Park and our charitable work through the Zoological Society of Hertfordshire and The Big Cat Sanctuary.
âTo our members, a huge thank you for their ideas, support, funding and donations. Also, to the general public, especially for support and donations over the past 12 months.
“We look forward to welcoming them again when we reopen. It’s so nice to have a team around me who are so knowledgeable, passionate and caring.”
In a video posted to Instagram, site planning coordinator Aaron Whitnall said: âYour support for Paradise throughout this lockdown has been overwhelming.
“I can’t even begin to tell you how grateful all of us at Paradise are for this support.”
Visitors will also notice some changes around the park, with a one-way system around the zoo, additional COVID-19 measures in place, and online-only pre-booking.
Aaron added, âWe are still building our new habitats for the jaguar and the sun bear. So please stay with us as this work continues.
“We just want to make sure that when these are done, our animals get the best possible welfare and husbandry possible at the shows – and that our visitors get the best possible view of these breathtaking species.”