The park was an idea created and developed solely by David Gill. At the time of the construction back in 1993/4, he was an animal nutritionist with no connections to zoo's, but a desire to see education and conservation brought into the public awareness by the reality of a close, wild experience, an experience for all to react to assist worldwide conservation issues. The then 32-year-old father of two, built the park with his own hands and to this day, still designs and builds all the facilities around the zoo now with the help and assistance of the large staff.
- 1993: Started construction in November.
- 1994: The park opened to the public on 28th May 1994, it was a fraction of the experience it is today but still held the visitors in wonder at the freedom that the animals were given in a natural environment. Wallabies, Antelope, Guanacos, Raccoons, Coatis, Parrots, Pheasants and Ducks held the stage.
- 1995: 55,000 visitors entered the park and experienced the development of the Antelope facilities and Lemur enclosures. Free ranging Lemurs became a feature of this unique park.
- 1996: 101,000 visitors witnessed the arrival of the first Tiger to arrive at South Lakes, Toba, a Sumatran Tiger took up residence on 1st April. Then in December two Amur Tigers, Egor and Nina arrived in their new home. Fund raising started for Tiger conservation in the wild and it truly was the “year of the tiger” at South Lakes Wild Animal Park.
- 1997: The start of the Australian experience. The first major leap into becoming the largest collection of Kangaroo species anywhere in the world. Cheetahs first arrived during this year when 150,000 people visited the park.
- 1998: The arrival of the Rhinos took place in March, a major step in the development of the African region in the park.
- 1999: This year saw the major development of the primate house and facilities. Ground breaking fencing and open environments that give the primates a unique facility within this zoo. 220,000 visitors in this year.
- 2000: Our Giraffe facilities were completed and the Giraffes arrived giving the visitors to the park the sight of Africa: Giraffe, Rhinos, Zebra and Antelope all together . With another increase in visitors the park won the award for the top attraction in the Lake District for 1999 and 2000 back to back.
- 2001: Sees new developments for Lemurs, Cats and other species. And preparations are under way for a major new exhibit for 2002.
- 2002: We added to the major new exhibition of Spectacled Bears, by welcoming a pride of Lions to their own enclosure.
- 2003: Sees the arrival of female rhinos, new to the park. New groups of lemurs, marmosets and monkeys along with a troop of Baboons to the African Plain and mixing them with the Rhinos and Giraffes.
- 2004: First breedings of Rodriguez Fruit Bat, Agile Wallaby, Siamang and Babirusa, all significant advances for the park and its programmes.
- 2005: Saw the arrival of Penguins, Mandrills and Pygmy Hippos, plus the new 'Giraffe Walk', enabling visitors to really get up close to the Giraffes, Rhinos and Baboons in their summer area. A Cheetah walk and new picnic area was completed to make major improvements. Visitor numbers were 30,000 up on 2004.
- 2006: Year 12 has seen the largest change in the park's history with major works transforming all aspects of the park for the animals and the visitors.
The new Wild Things Gift shop opened on 2nd April 2006.
A new shop twice the size of the previous one and specially designed and themed by a Danish company who are creating an African Village out of existing group of buildings and facilities.
The new Maki Restaurant on 2nd April 2006
A large completely new themed restaurant and outside eating area overlooking the African Savannah opened and compliments the massively improved picnic areas.
View from the Restaurant decking
site of restaurant 18.2.06
We have built a state of the art Veterinary Centre in the middle of the park and now employ a full time Veterinary coordinator.
New Aerial walkways and viewpoints: Over 1/2 kilometer of new high level wooden walkways give visitors an amazing view of the animals from previously unimaginable angles and positions as well as make disabled access dramatically better to previously the most difficult areas.
Condors and Vultures arrived and the 35ft high and their 120ft long free flight walk through aviary opened to the public!
pic 22.1.06. site of new aviary and new condor arrival
Major new planting around the park of Palm trees, Bananas and Bamboos will create a more tropical feel to the setting also walk through fruit bat aviary opened.
By far the most important development was the surfacing of our second car park with Tarmacadam , this has been desperately needed for years and finally 2006 saw top class car parking for all its visitors. To add to this all the remaining gravel pathways are now tarmacadam to make wheelchair and push chair access far better. New access to all levels of the park are now completed.
- 2007 A record breaking year with an extra 48,000 visitors - our best ever! Additional aerial walkways and viewpoints, progresses in the international breeding programmes included rare births, the arrival of a male Spectacled Bear and White Rhinocerous pregnancies announced.
Santa and Rudolf drop in for a truly spectacular christmas. Lights, trees, nativity, Santa and reindeers hundreds of visitors joined with the park to celebrate a truly traditional christmas.
- 2008 Park celebrates biggest birth in the history of the park - White Rhino Nyala born 1.06.08
Reindeers and alpaca arrive inthe park
Additional covered picnic areas give visitors somewhere to relax; animals arrived in 2008 include Scarlet ibis, Capybara (arrived May) , Squirrel Monkeys (arrived - in quarrantine) Capuchin monkeys, new group of Spider Monkeys (arrived June). Planning for a new hands on visitor experience underway. Park wins Top Visitor Attraction for the 6th time. Park celebrates births from every lemur species - first time ever! Animals expected in 2009 include Flamingos, Rosy spoonbills.
Come visit this year, we know you will be amazed!