Behind the scenes at Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm in Somerset
PUBLISHED: 00:00 29 April 2020
If Noah was alive today he would be thrilled to visit the Somerset zoo farm which proudly bears his name, says BERNARD BALE.
Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm has not only been a welcome addition to Somerset’s great array of places that must be visited but has also been welcomed by international conservationalists because of its breeding programme. It has already contributed greatly to the preservation of the world’s wildlife.
Anthony and Christina Bush were dairy farmers when Moat House Farm was part of the famous Tyntesfield Estate, which is now under the umbrella of the National Trust. Anthony and Christina have been there since 1962 and nursed the idea of opening a farm visitor attraction for some time before finally it happened in 1998.
As soon as it opened the visitors loved it and that encouraged Anthony and Christina to get ever more ambitious and further create a haven where animals of all kinds could live peacefully and be enjoyed so much more by appreciative visitors.
In two decades Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm has had many amazing milestones. During those early days there were camels, llamas and wallabies, as well as pets and farm animals. Much happened in 2004 for instance when the reptile house opened and preparations were well underway for even more bigger and perhaps more exotic animals to be added to the collection. Indeed a year later the two white rhinos arrived, a new Animal Village was created and the whole project gathered even greater momentum.
Today, visitors to Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm are thrilled by Elephant Eden, Britain’s largest elephant enclosure, which now provides superb facilities for Janu, M’changa and Shaka. Elephant Eden was opened in 2014 by HRH the Princess Royal, who was clearly impressed by the great enclosure and its African elephants.
The contentment of animals is often reflected in their breeding and it is a tribute to Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm that the giraffes, lions, tapirs and many of the other species in this great collection have successfully bred. Mentioning the variety of species, a visit to this zoo is like experiencing a living who’s who of the wildlife world with giant tortoises, zebras, capybaras, bears, bison, eagles, parrots, gibbons, lemurs, meerkats, crocodiles, ostrich, reindeer and far too many more to mention.
Humans are also well cared for with play areas, picnic areas, eateries and modern toilet and changing facilities. Nothing has been left to chance. There is still another dimension to the zoo as Anthony and Christina explains:
“Sustainability and conservation are foundational to everything we do at Noah’s Ark. This includes education through our daily keeper talks, education workshops and regular fundraising events for animal conservation charities.
“We are delighted to have various species which are part of the European Endangered Species Programme, which works with animal parks and zoos across Europe to breed and protect endangered species. Our Elephant Eden enclosure is the largest elephant enclosure in Northern Europe.
“Also, we aim to be a leading ‘green zoo’ and we generate over half of our own electricity needs through renewable power generation on site - solar panels on the roofs of animal enclosures, biomass and our very own wind turbine. We also harvest and recycle water from roofs and we provide enrichment for animals using upcycled materials such as old fire hoses donated by the local fire service. We support local and Fairtrade through our cafes and kiosks and we use recyclable and compostable packaging wherever possible.
“We have been thrilled that Noah’s Ark has been recognised with multiple awards at both regional and national levels for education, our animal enclosures, sustainability and green tourism. We are members of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums and we are accredited by the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom.
“We are delighted by the wonderful public support that we have received. Most importantly, the animals are happy and as we continue to grow that will always be our priority.”
The name of the zoo is inspired by the Biblical account of Noah which is of course one of the best-known stories in the world with its image of the world’s animals gathered into the safety of an ark. How very apt for a zoo, especially where conservation is one of its priorities.
The zoo is primarily open from 5 April until 1 November, but there is a special opening at Christmas too and this year will be no exception.
Last year many visitors enjoyed the festive music, twinkly lights and nativities with magical scenes across the zoo, made completely from recyclable materials. In Christmas Corner it was possible to meet and greet the reindeers and there was a special time-of-the-year greeting for over 80s who were admitted free.
It is worth watching out for the Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm’s special events throughout the year – they’re fun for all.
Anthony and Christina are thrilled by the progress made and their visitors’ delight at what the Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm is achieving and providing. It is well worth a visit , easy to find in Wraxall near Bristol and set as it is, a gem in the Somerset countryside.