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Dudley Zoo - An enjoyable family day out with built in local history lesson!
Dudley Zoological Gardens
Member Name: cfinney
Dudley Zoological Gardens
Date: 12/08/11, updated on 14/08/11 (232 review reads)
Advantages: Dramatically improved animal welfare, a good mixture of animals and strong history!
Disadvantages: Disabled access is rubbish and rather dangerous in the rain for everyone!
Dudley zoo has a reputation among locals of being a little rubbish. Apparently twenty/thirty years ago the zoo was home to many large animals including elephants and a killer whale etc. None of these animals were housed in suitable shelters and the zoo was generally considered quite a cruel and miserable place. When animal welfare laws became a little stricter the zoo were forced to part with many of these animals which now leaves most people's opinion of the place being something along the lines of 'there is nothing there.' I've very rarely heard a good word being said about the zoo.
This is probably the reason it has taken me so long to visit Dudley zoo. About eight years ago my family moved just outside of Dudley and the house we currently live in is so close to the zoo on a clear day you can see the back of it from my bedroom window. There have also been a few occasions where I've been able to hear the Lions roar from my home. Given I am a animal lover and have always enjoyed day trips to safari parks and zoos it does seem a little strange that it has taken me a whole eight years to actually go there.
But I did recently decide to give the place a try. Partly because I was annoyed at my little Sister spending the entire duration of the summer holidays sat on the internet or PS3, partly because I had a voucher which enabled one free child admission with a full paying adult, mostly because I was just curious.
So a few days ago me and my Sister woke up earlier than usual and embarked on the ten minute bus journey to the zoo. I have to say we had a thoroughly nice day out!
Dudley zoo is located within walking distance of Dudley town centre in the Black Country, West Midlands. It is about eleven miles west of Birmingham and easily accessible via car and just about all forms of public transport.
The zoo is open every day except Christmas day from 10am. In the winter months last admission is 3pm and 4pm in the Summer. The zoo closes an hour after these last admission times.
Admission prices are as follows:
Adult including £1.20 donation - £12.50
Adult not including £1.20 donation - £11.30
Children (3-15 years) - £8.90
Child with disability - £6
Concessions (adult with disability/senior citizen/student) - £9.90
Under 3's - free
One free admission for carer with a disabled visitor.
These prices are a little cheaper than other zoo's I have visited throughout the UK but then other zoos I have visited have had a lot more to offer then Dudley zoo. Within say this I still feel the admission fee is good value for money and I certainly cannot complain paying just £12.50 for myself and my little Sister using my voucher!
If you do live local to the zoo and plan to visit regularly then you can purchase a membership for just £18 which gives you unlimited access to the zoo for a whole year. This would pay for itself pretty quickly!
In terms of animals, well no, it's not the best zoo I have ever been to. But it's no where near as bad as I had heard it to be! There are definitely more smaller animals than anything else but these can be just as interesting and fun to look at and the zoo does still offer larger animals as well.
I wouldn't like to say how many animals there are but according to the zoo's wikipedia page (so don't take this as gospel) in 2006 the zoo had 940 animals and 163 different species of animal. This information doesn't sound too far fetched to me personally.
As I have mentioned, I have heard the Lions roar from my house before so I knew that the zoo had them. Upon visiting I found the zoo actually have three lions, two female and one male all of whom were beautiful! The Lions are Asiatic Lions which are apparently one of the rarest animals with only 500 left, 300 of which are in zoos and wildlife parks.
The zoo has a whole collection of different primates. From Lemurs and Spider Monkeys to Chimps and Orang Utans. There are two primate related attractions. Lemur Walk allows you to freely walk through what felt like a bit of rainforest to me (probably due to the fact it was raining but still very humid at the time) getting up close and personal with over 30 lemurs. You're not allowed to touch them but you very easily could if you were allowed.
Then there is Monkey Tails which is like a giant greenhouse. It's pretty similar to Lemur Walk in that many smaller monkeys will roam around close to you but you're not allowed to touch them. There are also a few lizards to look at in Monkey Tails.
The zoo also has one of the largest colonies of Humboldt Penguins. Sixty in fact. These were a particular highlight of my visit, very entertaining to watch!
African Hunting Dogs, Black Bears, Kangaroos, Otters, Sea Lions, Giraffes, Tigers, Reindeer, Snow Leopards and Lynxs are all found in Dudley zoo along with many more.
The good news is, the animal's now seem to be housed in good accommodation which is suited to their needs. The only problems I saw were the Giraffe enclosure which still looked a little small for all all three of them in my opinion and the fact there was only one Tiger. Given Tigers are not solitary animals I thought this was a little cruel. Other than that, everything was perfectly fine by me!
One thing I did like was the farmyard. More commonly seen animals such as rabbits, goats, chickens and pigs freely roamed around whilst members of the public were allowed to touch them and even stop to have a picture taken with them! All under the supervision of a few zoo keepers of course. I must admit I did like sitting down stroking a couple of goats, it's not every day you get to do that!
Another thing I most liked about the zoo was the fact tarantulas were not housed in the reptile house as they usually are. I'm afraid I suffer with arachnophobia rather badly and normally refuse to go into reptile houses due to my constant awareness that there are a couple of huge hairy spiders near me. I love snakes though (we used to have one when I was a small child so snakes always trigger happy childhood memories for me) and so not being able to go into reptile houses is often a huge disappointment for me.
I was, however, free to roam the reptile house at Dudley zoo with ease and peace of mind looking at least ten different species of snake along the way!
Navigating your way around the zoo is fairly easy as well. You're given a map on entrance which makes things a lot easier but everything is clearly signposted as well. If this still isn't good enough for you there is nearly always a zoo keeper near by to help you if you've lost your way.
There are a lot of steps and steep hills though. Disabled access isn't exactly wonderful. I lost count the amount of parents I saw really struggling with pushchairs. In fact, I saw a few give up trying entirely. Typical of the British weather, when I went it started to rain. The steps and slopes became rather slippy and were really quite dangerous! Me and my Sister both slipped a good number of times as well as many other visitors. Walking around was really quite scary!
I did notice a few restaurants and kiosks selling food and drink. I had packed myself and my Sister a picnic lunch so in terms of quality and cost of food and drink I cannot comment. Past experience would lead me to believe it was overpriced, these places usually are. Toilets were easy to find and appeared regularly during our walk around the zoo. These seemed to be in a tidy condition and I have no complaints there.
Once you've seen all the zoo has to offer in terms of animals then Dudley Castle is definitely worth a look at. The castle is located in the grounds of the zoo, in fact the zoo is pretty much built around it, and entrance is included with the zoo admission price.
If you're fit enough and brave enough to walk up and then back down quite a high, spiral, steep stair case then you can stand at the top of the tower and look down on the rest of the zoo whilst looking out on pretty much the whole of the Black Country!
The castle was built in the 11th century and is now a listed building. There are a number of buildings around the site of Dudley zoo which are all very old and listed. Once you get to the site of the castle the zoo turns into a bit of a local history museum! It's very informative and information is presented in a way which is understandable for both children and adults.
There is an awful lot of history to learnt at Dudley zoo as well as animals to be looked at!
So, Dudley zoo is a zoo and local history site. But there is more! It's also a mini children's fairground! There's a children's roller coaster, inflatable slides, dodgems and a few other rides aimed at the young. My sister felt she was 'too old' for these rides (she's 10) and I certainly was so we didn't spend too much time at this part of the park although there were plenty of little ones having a run around, giggling whilst their parents finally got to sit down.
The rides operate on a token basis. You purchase tokens from a kiosk. Most rides are one or two tokens per person. I remember the tokens were £1 each but you could also buy in 'bulk' at a cheaper rate although I really do not remember the prices or number of tokens available I'm afraid!
All in all, it's a fairly decent zoo. My Sister and I had a nice day (even with the rain) and would happily return again. I once heard an older women describe the zoo from her childhood memories as a 'concrete prison for animals'. I am pleased to say the zoo is no longer like this, thoroughly a much more happier and enjoyable place to be!
I would be a little disappointed if I had travelled far to visit the zoo but if you live locally or ever find yourself in the area I would recommend you take a look!
Summary: An enjoyable day out, local people should visit at least once.
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