The Island's first zoo came into existence on the current site sometime during the 1950s. Known locally as Sandown Zoo, it was constructed within the walls of the existing Victorian fort
. By the 1970s the zoo had fallen into severe decline and was quoted by the Sunday Times newspaper as 'The Slum Zoo of Britain’. This national slamming of the zoo was ultimately its lifeline, as it caught the attention of a successful businessman who took over in 1976. Under his ownership, the zoo was saved from almost inevitable closure.
Young tiger Tamyra being walked on the nearby beach
Within a year, a Herpetological Centre was set up and soon involved in the work of the World Health Organization. The first tigers entered the zoo's revised animal collection at the end of the 1970s. These big cats acted as an important catalyst for our future emphasis on the tiger species. While the zoo enjoyed several tiger births, other large cat species were also introduced. By the early 1990s, a range of animals populated the zoo. It was this decade that saw the introduction of lemurs into the expanding zoo.
The Isle of Wight Zoo Now
The Island's zoo still remains under its original private ownership from the takeover in 1976. Today, the Isle of Wight Zoo is going from strength to strength, having firmly established itself as a serious centre for wild animal management and conservation.
Conservation projects to support in-situ work in India and Madagascar are in progress and look set to make a significant contribution towards the preservation of tigers and lemurs in their native habitats. The zoo now operates a fully-fledged education department catering for the visiting public and for schools. Regeneration and expansion of the zoo's facilities for both animals and visitors is on-going
Zoos must continually grow to fulfil the increasing demands on them as animal welfare, conservation and recreation centres. This zoo understands the necessity of remaining flexible to the needs of the wildlife community as a whole while also adhering to its own personal goals.