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Visit the zoo with a view!
Welsh Mountain Zoo (Colwyn Bay)
Member Name: markos9
Welsh Mountain Zoo (Colwyn Bay)
Advantages: Can get close to some beautiful, secretive, animals. Lovely setting.
Disadvantages: Some enclosures are small.
The Welsh Mountain Zoo is located above the town of Colwyn Bay in North Wales, and has a beautiful location. The zoo is set in woodland, with wonderfully maintained gardens covering 37 acres. These gardens hold some very rare and endangered plants; the zoo sees itself as a conservation organisation for flora as well as fauna.
The zoo's position high above the town, gives it commanding and panoramic views across Liverpool Bay. Several of the many picnic areas scattered across the grounds have fantastic sea views to enjoy whilst eating or resting.
The zoo is small compared to, say, Chester Zoo, but it has a varied and interesting collection of animals. The zoo, as with most modern zoos, considers its main aim to be conservation, with education, scientific study, and recreation, as secondary goals.
In meeting this aim, the zoo plays an active part in many breeding programmes for endangered animals. The Przewalski's Horse, for example, was extinct in the wild until 1992, with the only populations of this lovely animal existing in zoos across the world. Reintroduction to the wild was only possible due to the efforts of a captive breeding programme. Closer to home, the zoo is involved in the British breeding programme for native red squirrels.
With its location nestled within woodland, visibility from one area to the next can be limited. Each exhibit is connected with paths through the trees, which makes exploring the zoo more of an adventure than simply following a concrete path. It was interesting just seeing 'what's around the next corner'. I would say that, however, in order to see everything you want to, a map of the zoo (provided at reception) is invaluable.
For a visitor used to seeing a large zoo, the animal enclosures may appear small. I think that this is partially compensated by most of the animals being small or sedentary, needing little space. However, I was disappointed with one enclosure in particular. My delight at seeing the magnificent snow leopards (an animal I've always wanted to see) so close, was tempered with unease that perhaps these big cats did not have enough room.
One of the Welsh Mountain Zoo's specialities is its native wildlife. Brown bears are extinct in Britain, so the zoo is one of the few places to see these big animals. Golden eagles and polecats still live in this country but can be difficult to get close to. Again, the zoo gives people a chance to see these charismatic creatures close up (although seeing an eagle in a cage did not look natural).
The zoo hit the headlines in 2006 for the wrong reasons; a local yob took one of the rabbits from the petting section, inconveniently located next to the reptile house, and fed it to one of the Mississippi Alligators, in front of a group of distraught children. Luckily the lad concerned was caught and prosecuted, but the zoo must take some responsibility due to the proximity of the alligator pen and the ease of access to these large reptiles (there's just a three foot fence with no ceiling in the enclosure).
Another of the zoo's attractions deserves a special mention. The sea lion pool allows visitors to get really close to these surprisingly large animals. The keepers also feed the sea lions and make them do simple tricks which they seem to enjoy. This is located close to the entrance and makes a great starting point.
The zoo's facilities are very good for a small attraction. There's two café's, one of which is located right above the Sumatran Tiger enclosure (hopefully it won't put too many people off their lunch, watching a large tiger tearing into a hunk of dead meat!). The food is good rather than brilliant, but prices are ok. There's also the obligatory gift shop where all sorts of animal related items can be bought as a souvenir or present.
There's also a large well stocked play area. This has the longest slide I've ever seen outside of a theme park (my two nieces loved it!). This allows the adults to have a rest whilst the kids go mad. One thing to note, however, is that the play area is on two levels. Once a child goes down the long slide, he or she will be out of sight of the upper level. When I visited, we had two adults in our party so this was not a problem.
The zoo's entrance fee is reasonable. Adults pay £8.95, children £6.60, with a family ticket costing £28.25.
Overall, I can recommend the Welsh Mountain Zoo as a place to visit for a nice day out. The zoo holds some very rare and beautiful animals and its location means that it is lovely to simply walk around and for the kids to explore.
Summary: Well worth a visit, the kids will love it.
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