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Twycross Zoo (Warwickshire)
Member Name: ladyofcampfires
Twycross Zoo (Warwickshire)
Advantages: Plenty of primates, all animals seem well looked after & happy. Easy to get to via public transport.
Disadvantages: Not many other big mammals besides Primates. Can be a little pricey.
I've been wanting to visit Twycross Zoo for quite a while now. It being 'The World Primate Centre' and me being a massive Primate fan (particular apes) this is only natural I suppose. After receiving a heavier wage this month than usual do the insane amount of overtime I did at work during the recent bank holidays, I planned three animal related day trips during my much needed week off. Twycross was the first place on my list to visit and that's exactly what I did.
----- Getting to the Zoo -----
Twycross Zoo is located in Leicestershire (although the address says Warwickshire). It is located on the A444 off of the A5 and the M42. Once you get close to the zoo the usual brown attraction sign posts can be spotted to point you in the right direction. For SatNav users the postcode is CV9 3PX. There is ample free parking within the park and your vehicle remains accessible at all times.
As I don't drive I had to get to the zoo via public transport and I'm pleased to report this is relatively easily done. There is a number 7 bus which departs from Nuneaton and Ashby de la Zouch bus stations which drops you off at the zoo entrance. With both bus stations being within walking distance of the nearest train station it's a pretty simple trip and relatively cheap as well if you live within the Midlands area. I would say, however, this bus route is rather long winded. I got on at Nuneaton and the journey took nearly an hour, it's a twenty minute drive if you head straight there!
If you live near Leicester or Hinckley it may be worth noting there is a bus service running every Thursday from central points in these locations to and from the zoo during the 2012 summer holidays. If you buy your tickets online you can travel on these buses for just £1 per person. Much cheaper than driving if you live local enough!
----- Admission Prices & Opening Times -----
Adult - £16.50
Child (3-16) - £11
Child (under 3) - £1
Concession (senior citizens & students with NUS card) - £13
Family ticket (2 adults & 2 children 3-16) - £48
Disabled Adult - £11
Disabled Child - £9
All of the above prices include an optional conservation donation to the zoo. If you do not wish to pay this donation then these prices are 10% cheaper. Currently, if you book your tickets online you can save an additional 5% on admission prices. Doing this also allows you to jump the queues when you get to the zoo. A free carer is permitted into the zoo with each disabled visitor on a 1-1 ratio.
You can also purchase a 'friends of Twycross' membership which allows you unlimited access to the zoo within normal opening times for a year. The prices of these memberships are as follows:
Adult - £65
Child (3-16) - £45
Family (2 adults & 2 children 3-16) - £175
Concession (senior citizens, students with NUS card & disabled adults) - £55
Depending on which of the above membership you purchase this membership pays for itself within 4 or 5 visits to the park so if you do intend on visiting regularly it is well worth it.
The zoo is open from 10am daily (closed on Christmas day). From October - March the zoo closes at 4:30pm and from April - September the zoo closes at 5:30pm.
----- Facilities and Accessibility -----
Disabled access is actually pretty good! Pushchairs are easily navigated around the zoo too. The zoo is almost entirely on flat land with just the occasional small hill to make your way up and down. Most of the animal houses allow enough space for wheelchairs and pushchairs although there is no disabled access inside the lemur house. What was supposed to be a mildly cold but dry day turned out to be none stop rain but the zoo was still easy to walk around without slipping over.
Should you require a mobility scooter this can be booked in advance for a fee of £12 and are available from guest services.
The zoo does permit seeing eye dogs although due to the animals upsetting one another, such animals are not allowed in certain areas of the zoo. If you do have a seeing eye dog then unfortunately there is no access to the apes or elephants.
Toilets are dotted around the zoo and can be found often and were all clean and well stocked on toilet roll and hand wash. Upon entering the zoo you can visit the 'Best Loo 2011' if you wish. This toilet didn't get its title for nothing mind you! Leaf cutter ants can be found running around in the space between the sinks and the mirror. I don't think I've ever spent so long in a toilet! They're really interesting to watch. The toilet also features a wall almost entirely made of glass over looking the snow leopard enclosure. This toilet is huge, pristine and probably the most enjoyable toilet experience a person can have. Even the water from the sinks seemed to be the perfect temperature!
There are also a good number of places to purchase food and drink along with various picnic spots around the zoo should you wish to take your own food. Prices of such are as typically overpriced as you'd expect to find. I ended up paying £5 for a jacket potato with cheese and beans! The quality of the food was good, there's no denying that but I'm not sure it was worth a fiver. My younger Sister opted for a children's fish and chips meal costing £4, a small portion even for a child if you ask me and she did complain her chips were cold. Vegetarian options are good though, a lot better than I usually find in such places and there was actually quite a variety of meat free choices. If they hadn't been so ridiculously expensive I probably would of opted for something different to my usual choice of jacket potato.
The entrance of the zoo brings you into the gift shop although we didn't really stop to have a look around until we were leaving as we didn't want to carry our purchases around all day with us. It's a large gift shop containing a huge variety of things, had I had the money I could of easily spent a small fortune in there! Cuddly toys in almost all animal forms can be found along with stationary, t-shirts, jewellery and keyrings. The gift shop also sells a range of different and interesting musical instruments along with a lot of Asian themed items to link into the Asian Elephants. As a girl who burns incense daily I was in heaven at the variety of incense sticks and cones being sold. The prices were about what you'd expect from such a place. I paid about £7 for three packs of incense sticks and a keyring so not too outrageous.
The items sold in the gift shop support ethical suppliers and there are a wide range of fair trade products sold. All profits from items sold in the gift shop go towards supporting the work of the zoo and conservation projects globally so your money does go to a good cause.
------ Animals -----
The animals at the zoo are very primate focused. Which was fine by me but perhaps disappointing for others. Aside from the Asian Elephants, Giraffes and Leopards all of the bigger animals are primates. There are also two types of Leopard, but these are the only big Cats, none of the usual Lions or Tigers can be found at Twycross.
There's a huge variety of small monkeys at the zoo, they appear to have them all! Howler Monkeys, Marmosets, Lemurs, Spider Monkeys, Langurs, Gibbons, Tamarin and Woolly Moneys can all be found at Tywcross among others and there's a large number of sub-species of each of these too! I actually wasn't aware there were so many different types of Monkeys and I personally found the Golden-Headed Lion Tamarins most interesting to look at. As the name indicates, these little Monkeys have a big golden mane around their faces and they do look quite like really mini Lions!
I'm a massive lover of Apes and so I found myself really enjoying my walk around the zoo. Twycross are the only zoo in the UK where you will find Bonobos and this was my first (and possibly last) viewing of them. What a wonderful sight it was! There was a large group of them and they look a little like smaller Chimpanzees. Bonobos are our closest living relative sharing 98% of our DNA and it's very easy to tell this! It's amazing looking at just how human like they are. There was a relatively young Bonobo and it appeared as though his Mum was even blowing raspberries on his belly which he was very obviously loving!
There were two large groups of Chimpanzees which were by far the most entertaining animals of the day. The first group I observed just started going mad for no apparent reason whatsoever! One minute they were just sat around relaxing, the next minute they were banging on everything, screaming, running around and just making a huge racket which could clearly be heard from outside. For one reason or another, as soon as this excitement kicked off they all just started defecating as they were running around and poo was just flying everywhere! Normally I hate having to view animals from behind barriers but I was rather thankful this time.
The second group of Chimpanzees were much calmer although still playful and nice to look at. The first group were all getting on a bit, the youngest being nineteen and the oldest being about 35 if I remember correctly. This group seemed to be a much younger group although there wasn't any information given on this group like the other one for some reason. There were certainly a couple of young Chimps anyway. There were two brown Chimps in this group. I was aware that Chimps came in black and brown but I'd never actually seen a brown one before so that was a nice surprise for me. One of the brown Chimps was completely bald too! He didn't appear to be in ill health or anything but I was still intrigued as to why he'd lost all of his fur. Unfortunately there was no one around to ask. This bald Chimp decided to sit with his legs wide open facing everyone for a good ten minutes and well, everyone had a good giggle at how quite obviously male he was.
Then there's a group of Orang-Utans. The fully flanged male of which was massive. Just his one hand appeared to be the same size as my face, he was very impressive. There was also a younger male and a couple of adult females along with a little baby who was the most adorable thing to look at. As it rained constantly the entire day the majority of the animals were sensibly indoors although one Orang decided she'd sit outside and simply shield himself with a sleeping bag. It was quite cute watching her climb up her climbing frame covering herself with this sleeping bag and not letting it go for love nor money before settling herself down into a comfortable position and adjusting it around her so it completely covered her.
Then, my most favourite animals in the whole world. Gorillas! Not one group, but two! This was really shaping out to be my idea of a zoo. Twycross has Western Lowland Gorillas and two groups meant two impressive silver backs. They all appeared to be very calm and there were strict instructions around their enclosures stating that the people viewing the Gorillas should be quiet at all times and not bang on the glass. The silence in the enclosure just added to the awe inspiring experience of being so close to these amazing animals in my opinion. The enclosures contained information of the biggest threats to these Gorillas namely, as usual, humans. Their flesh sold for bush meat and their hands sold for ashtrays, the less Gorillas there are the more can be made from their death. There was an awful picture of a Gibbon folded up into this tiny box awaiting its inevitable murder with a caption underneath stating that such images of Gorilla capture have been deemed to horrific for public display. Completely heartbreaking, upsetting and frankly, I just felt angry. The sad truth surrounding my favourite animal really did put a wet cloud over the experience of viewing them. But then, the more people who are aware of such horrid things happening the more chance there is of someone finally being able to put a stop to this or at least help their conservation and so, in a way, I'm thankful that this information is being publicly shared.
Once you've seen the Primates you've seen the majority of the animals at the zoo and there are only a few other mammals left to witness. These are also pretty impressive mammals though.
You may have seen the WWF advert on TV telling you about the critically endangered Amur Leopard. With only around 35 left in the wild I certainly never thought I'd see one so I was very surprised to find one at Twycross. When I arrived at this enclosure I was lucky enough to find this beautiful animal sleeping inches away from the viewing area, no other members of the public were around either so I got pretty good view. I think I must have spent about twenty minutes just standing there watching this Leopard sleeping. Sounds pretty boring but I just couldn't take my eyes off of him. He had the most beautiful face and again, I felt quite emotional stood there looking at him knowing this might be the last time I ever get to see one of these gorgeous animals. There are more Amur Leopards in captivity than in the wild so I think we've probably reached the point of no return with this species.
The Asian Elephants actually have quite a big park of the zoo dedicated to them. There are four in total and there's a lovely Asian themed walk way which leads to their enclosure. Statues of Elephants dressed up with gold tusks and images of Buddha can be spotted during these walk as well as a couple of places to sit (it is quite a long walk) and it's just a really nice walk even in the rain. There's a lot of build up to finally seeing the Elephants but it's not a disappointing viewing. You can view these massive animals from a bridge overlooking the Elephants which gives quite an unrestricted view and is certainly a better experience than looking through sheets of glass or bars.
'Pets at Tywcross' is situated towards the back of the park and is aimed at the little ones. This part of the zoo has domesticated animals such as ferrets and rabbits along with the occasional reptile. I was a little disappointed to find the Reptile house had been turned into Tropical House (basically a big greenhouse of plants and birds) as, way back in 1998, out pet Burmese Python went to the zoo as part of a breeding program. I was hoping he would still be there but unfortunately he wasn't. There are also Alpacas and a Donkey which you are free to pet and stroke.
----- Wetlands -----
The wetland is a relatively new addition to the park. It's a really nice walk that allows you see the beautiful side of nature. The area was developed was rare birds, insects and small mammals to make their home and native species of such animals have also decided to make their home there. It's mainly ponds and you're left walking over bridges taking a look into trees and down into the water. Again, even in the rain it made quite a pretty, scenic and relaxing walk. The whole area is very tranquil and thriving with wildlife from rarer, exotic animals and animals native to England who have found their own way there as opposed to being placed there by the zoo. Paths walking around the wetlands were quite narrow however still allowed enough space for wheelchairs and pushchairs so no one has to miss out on this one.
----- Overall Opinion -----
I very much enjoyed my trip to Twycross and I would definitely go again and recommend it to other people. If you're a Primate fan then this a definite must visit attraction. Despite the lack of other big mammals I do still think the zoo makes for an interesting and enjoyable day out. All of the enclosures seemed big enough and contained everything the animals needed, none of them looked particularly sad or distressed which is always nice to see. It can be a little pricey and is perhaps best enjoyed on nice days due to the amount of interesting walks there are at the zoo but all in all, thoroughly enjoyable experience!
Summary: A really enjoyable day trip for all the family.
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