Noah's Ark zoo farm
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An enormous Christmas cracker was given to Shaka, which didn’t last long against an African elephant who wieghts more than four ton.
He was swiftly rewarded with the contents of the cracker, packed full of hay and carrots, pouring out ready to be eaten.
Keepers typically raise items such as barrels to heights of up to six metres. This helps provide enrichment and encourages the elephants to reach up and raise their trunk for food.
Crackers were also made for the Spectacled bears, Rasu and Madidi, to varying results.
Four-year-old male, Rasu was quick to knock his cracker down whereas female, Madidi, also aged four took her time to enjoy the festive treat.
A special recycled wooden tree was presented to the farm animals including rare breed Bagot goats and alpacas who thoroughly munched through the hanging carrot and lettuce treats.
Domino the Bagot goat especially loving the carrot treats.
Keepers also wrapped up presents for the zoo’s famous noisy gibbons and baked a special Christmas pudding for the zebras consisting of soaked fibre beet, grated apple for the icing and beech leaves on top.
Lead Keeper Jayne Gibbins said: “Work never stops for keepers at the zoo, even over Christmas but it’s a great time where we can really spoil the zoo’s residents.
“Christmas day at the zoo is such a special time where we give our animals extra treats and scratches and it’s such a festive atmosphere in the staff room.”
Keepers are one of many occupations which has the need for work over the festive period with care for the animals continuing throughout Christmas Day and the rest of the holidays.
Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm re-opens on Tuesday, December 31 but is closed New Year's Day.
Bird boxes hoot at zoo
Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm keepers have found promising signs that their 100 nest boxes are providing habitats for native wildlife.
Earlier in the year, keepers from across the zoo came together to build the nest boxes to help provide habitats for native wildlife.
Using repurposed offcuts from the zoo’s construction projects, these nest boxes were placed in various locations throughout the 100 acres of North Somerset countryside that the zoo is built upon.
The next boxes were placed within the dense surrounding woodland areas to adorning the wallaby house and even near to the big zoo animals such as the elephants.
They are often easily spotted by guests visiting the zoo and often, native wildlife can be seen using certain boxes.
Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm curator Chris Wilkinson said: "It’s been a great team effort in building, monitoring, and caring for these nest boxes around the zoo.
"We are entering a time of inspection and cleaning, ready and hopeful for another promising year of activity."
It has been a varied but hopeful success rate at the zoo, with all animal teams inspecting and reporting on what’s been found in their designated nest boxes.
Some boxes produced spiders and cobwebs and others have fantastic evidence of nesting activity including one that’s believed to be a wren’s nest.
Noah’s Ark is also home to a wonderful range of native wildlife species, from long-eared bats, frogs, hares, and deer to kestrels and even barn owls.
The team at the zoo are hopeful to see sparrows, robins, blue tits, and wrens call these nest boxes home.
Chris added: “We’re particularly proud to be home to so many different British wildlife species. It’s not uncommon here during your day-to-day work to be reminded of native animals.
"I’ve previously even had an encounter where I’ve seen a nearby flying barn owl while checking our boxes.
"It’s truly incredible to see.”
The 100 nest boxes are part of the green zoo initiative by the zoo to help with a sustainable future.
Over the years, many trees have been added to the zoo including the 15,000 beech trees that form the Great British Wildlife Maze.
Trimmings from this even provide silage for the zoo’s browsing animals.
There’s also a huge conservation area that sits within the zoo for native wildlife to thrive within including a Butterfly meadow and large pond to respectively encourage habitats for insects and amphibians.
Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm is open 10.30am-4pm between December 1-19. Day Tickets costing £15 for adults and £10.50 for children. Over 70s go free and guests can purchase a Festive Friday ticket for £18 for adults over 12 and £12 for children under 12. Festive Friday tickets must be prebooked up to three days in advance, limited availability and provide free entry to the zoo.
Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm attracts more than 200,000 visitors each year. Started in 1999, animals include elephants, lions, bears, giraffe, zebras, rhinos and gibbons. As well as the longest hedge maze in Europe, visitors can enjoy huge indoor and outdoor adventure playgrounds.
There are now over 100 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates at Noah’s Ark, including several important species classified as ‘endangered’ or ‘vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List. These include Siamang Gibbons (Endangered), Andean Bears (Vulnerable), African Elephants (Endangered) Cotton Topped Tamarins (Critically Endangered), White Rhinos (Near Threatened) and Brazilian Tapirs (Vulnerable).
‘Elephant Eden’ became the largest facility for elephants in the UK and the biggest of its kind in northern Europe at 20 acres (8 hectares) when it opened in February 2014.
Noah’s Ark holds national Gold in the Green Tourism Business Scheme (GTBS) for its sustainable operations. The zoo has been a member of the scheme since 2009. The zoo was also awarded the Innovation Award (for innovations in sustainability) from the National Farm Attractions Network and received the Learning Outside the Classroom accreditation in 2021.
Andean Adventure became the UKs newest and one of the largest bespoke habitats for Spectacled Bears when it opened in 2016.
Noah’s Ark is open seven days a week. Open 10.30am-5pm from February to November and 10.30am-4pm in December and January.
Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm has an unusual herd of tiny gardeners that keep the grass cut throughout the year – meet the African pygmy goats.
Each morning, the zoo’s pygmy goats don collars and leads as keepers take the boisterous herd to paddocks around the zoo.
Walked around the zoo twice a day, these little goats help out other species like the ostrich and the rhea, who prefer to graze on short grass.
Keeper Jayne Gibbins said: “They are small but they have mighty big personalities.
"Lily is typically calm and reserved, Bella is a sassy lady who loves her food and Ivan is very keeper oriented, always ready with a quick little nudge to remind you that you're not allowed to stop petting him!”
With more than 100 acres of North Somerset countryside, there are many paddocks and hedge rows that the pygmy goats can help keep at bay.
Although within reason, with the lions and bears understandably not receiving the same lawn care service!
African pygmy goats are social animals and live in herds.
They are also very smart and often quite curious on their walks around the zoo.
African pygmy goats are a domestic breed of goat that originate from Cameroon in West Africa.
They are known to be great climbers with the ability to jump up onto logs and rocks. They also have a diet of leaves, plants, grass as well as fruits and vegetables.
Noah's Ark festive fun
Christmas from Wednesday to Sunday, December 1-19 will be even more special at Noah's Ark as guests will be able to meet the zoo’s festive friends and learn all about the incredible reindeer herd.
The will also be able to learn about the history of Christmas, discover more about Christmas traditions and journey through a walkthrough of decorated twinkly lit trees with musical surprises to delight all ages!
This will be a Christmas to remember.
Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm managing director Larry Bush said: "Christmas is always such a happy time of year and a great time to be able to reach out to loved ones that we’ve all had to keep our distance from over the pandemic.”
Inspired by Age UK’s story of Terrence and the statistics showing 330,000 older people in the UK don’t look forward to Christmas due to loneliness, the zoo wants to help.
Noah’s Ark encourages guests to reach out to elderly relatives and neighbours with a special Over 70s go free offer throughout the event period.
Larry added: "I’m very proud to say that we’re able to give back to our community with help towards reaching out to those most lonely in our society.
"The zoo gives the perfect opportunity for a boost in wellbeing, with acres of outdoor space where guests can learn about animals and catch up on lost time.”
New for 2021, guests can also feast on a delicious Christmas lunch and catch up with loved ones and friends on Festive Fridays where they’ll receive free entry to the zoo when purchasing a festive lunch.
The zoo is also stocking locally grown Christmas trees, logs, festive treats and hampers at its on-site Farm Shop.
A herd of reindeers take centre stage during the event with passionate farm keepers hosting dedicated reindeer talks and feeding.
The large hoofed animals are native to northern Europe and Asia and are adapted to cold environments.
Lead farm keeper Eleanor Steeds said: "Reindeers may be known as festive animals, but they are also known for their huge antlers."Caesar is our resident male most known for his antlers.
"He is the biggest and most charismatic reindeer.
"He’ll be one of the herd that guests will be able to see on their visit.”
The zoo is also home to miniature donkeys and even a highland calf called Bonnie who has recently been finding its feet.
Guests are invited to join the zoo for their festive event season and to round up a wonderful year of the Top Trumps trail.
On entry they’ll receive the free limited edition Reindeer card topping off a hoof themed day of reindeer talks and feeding.
Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm is open 10,30am -4pm between 1st – 19th of December.
Day tickets cost £15 for adults and £10.50 for children.
Over 70s go free and guests can purchase a Festive Friday ticket for £18 for adults over 12 and £12 for children under 12.
Festive Friday tickets provide free entry to the zoo, they must be prebooked up to three days in advance, with limited availability.
Calling all pumpkin pickers!
A bumper crop of more than 1,000 pumpkins is ready to be harvested at North Somerset’s biggest zoo as part of its autumnal themed event – Pumpkin Fest.
From Saturday to Sunday, October 9-31, the Noah’s Ark events returns turning the Wraxall zoo farm and shop bright orange.
Featuring a wonderful ‘pick your own pumpkin’ patch populated with pumpkins planted and grown on site from Elephant poo within the 100 acres of our countryside.
Families will be able to grab a wheelbarrow or mini wheelbarrow for the youngsters and venture around the patch to pick out some whopper sized pumpkins of all shapes and colours.
With fabulous pumpkin themed treats at the Food Barn and Farm Shop, an Autumnal Top Trumps trail and special half term activities.
Staff discovered pumpkins growing from an Elephant dung pile a few years ago after elephants ate pumpkins and the undigested seeds self-planted to create an unexpected organic pumpkin patch.
Since then, Noah’s Ark staff have planted and cared for a dedicated pumpkin patch which has had a bountiful harvest for the zoo grounds team. Nowadays, grown using a unique blend of mainly African Elephant and White Rhino dung as manure, large squashes have been sprouting. Pumpkins range from your typical orange colour to ‘ghost’ white pumpkins.
Grounds manager Michael Bradly said: "It’s fantastic to see the result of our hard work.
"It has been the best year yet for our annual pumpkin harvest, from 100 in 2019 to now well over 1,000 this year.
"They are particularly large this year as well, which could be due to the great pumpkin-growing weather we’ve had and the special zoo fertiliser we use.
“Pumpkins need a warm, sunny location with shelter from wind and soil that holds moisture.
"It’s also unique as the manure used comes from the zoo farm’s own animals so they are very special pumpkins.”
Noah’s Ark has proudly been pursuing a green future, with Elephants producing up to 150kg of dung per day, it is a great sustainable solution.
Pumpkin Fest will also feature special Bug Talks during the school half term from Monday to Friday, October 25-29.
This is when vistiors can discover more about their favourite little critters and get up close to some of the zoo’s exotic invertebrates.
The Top Trumps trail also continues with vibrant autumn colours and a free limited-edition card to celebrate the event; the Giant African Land Snail, is available throughout October.
Autumn is a fabulous time for the zoo’s animals, with pumpkin treats spread over the enclosures for enrichment.
Elephants, goats, capybaras and giant tortoises all love to eat pumpkins. Previously, Shaka, the African Elephant was featured squashing a 14 stone pumpkin and meerkats always love clambering in and out of their pumpkins.
Curator Chris Wilkinson said: "“Many of our animals absolutely love getting a special pumpkin treat.
"They can provide great enrichment for our meerkats to explore, our elephants to squash and our lions to play with.”
Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm is open 10.30am-5pm during October with day tickets £18 for adults and £13 for children; £19.95 for adults and £15.95 for children from Saturday to Sunday, October 23-31.
A Highland calf called Bonnie has been born at Noah’s Ark.
This is the first time in five years the Wraxall zoo farm has welcomed a new baby Highland calf.
It was surprise, surprise when staff came into work on Thursday morning, September 9, to find mum Agnes had given birth.
Keeper Eleanor Steeds said: “Highland calves are the cutest thing, and we were so happy to see Bonnie.
"She’s already very confident and inquisitive.
“This is the first birth for Agnes, so she needed a little help at first, but she is already proving to be a great mum.
"For now, Bonnie will continue to stay with her mum, and we’ll be keeping a close eye on how she gets on.”
Bearing a distinctive black fluffy coat, Bonnie, a name of Scottish origin, means beautiful and she lives up to the name.
Calves are usually fully grown by two years old, with their horns coming through within the first year.
Highland cattle can have varying hair colours from red and yellow to black and white.
Highland cows originate from mountainous areas of Scotland and are one of the oldest cattle breeds.
They are known for their long, wavy coats that keep them warm in cold winters.
They also have prominent horns that Bonnie is yet to grow.
All things bright and beautiful televised at zoo farm
The Rev Canon Kate Bottley visits Noah's Ark Zoo Farm near Nailsea and hears about the Christian ethos at its heart. Songs of Praise was filmed while she was there and you can watch the broadcast on catch-up here https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000z8lw.
Tortoises and barn owls from the Wraxall zoo farm also go a starring role in one of the BBC’s longest running TV shows.
Kate visited the zoo in late July along with a TV crew to film an episode for the show.
She learned how the zoo farm grew from a dairy farm into the attraction it is now and discussed the faith of its founders Anthony and Christina Bush.
When first begun Anthony refused to open the zoo on Sunday - a day of rest - but last year commercial concerns led to a change of heart.
A huge animal lover, presenter Kate got up close with giant tortoises, Bella the barn owl and got stuck in with the daily poo shovelling duties of the elephant keepers.
Kate talked to head keeper Chris Wilkinson about his day-to-day duties, looking after a zoo with more than 500 animals and its importance for his family.
On top of getting stuck in, she also caught up with managing director, Larry Bush, on the role that zoos play in providing a place where people can re-connect with nature, the benefits for people and providing a sense of wellbeing.
Longest maze in UK opens
The longest hedge maze in the UK has opened near Nailsea.
The Great British Wildlife Maze - which stretches over 2.1 miles - has been relaunched at Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm in Wraxall, North Somerset.
The hedge maze is the longest and wildest of its kind in the UK.
It was originally constructed from more than 15,000 British Beech trees that were handplanted by the zoo team in 2003, growing from small 2ft high saplings to mature hedges over 5ft high.
The maze has now been re-opened, with a unique bird’s nest tower at its centre to celebrate British wildlife.
Noah’s Ark managing director Larry Bush said: “We wanted to celebrate our amazing British wildlife for all to enjoy.
"The amazing nest tower with slide at the centre of the hedge maze, along with new British wildlife themed questions, provide a really fun and engaging space for families to enjoy as part of a day out at the zoo this summer.
“Our hedge maze aims to educate and inspire its explorers about the wonders of the biodiversity here in the UK and helps to raise awareness of British wildlife habitats.”
And it’s not just visitors which enjoy the maze - local wildlife do too with many birds nesting in the hedgerows each spring.
Mr Bush added: “We have an incredible variety of native species here in North Somerset and our zoo farm is home to everything from butterflies, bats and buzzards to hedgehogs, foxes and deer.
“Many birds make their nests in the hedgerows of the maze itself each spring so it is a key wildlife habitat in its own right.
“Visitors will notice British wildlife is a big theme throughout Noah’s Ark alongside our big zoo animals and exotic wildlife conservation.”
Two new timber structures have been added to the hedge maze as part of the relaunch.
With an interactive trail and new revamped wildlife questions, maze explorers can navigate the maze, climb the brand-new nest tower, with scenic views over the zoo and finish with a slide back down.
Looking after the maze is a big job - with the cuttings being used to feed animals at the zoo farm.
Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm site manager Jon Jutsum said: “Maintenance of a maze this size is enormous as you can imagine.
“Every year the hedge maze is trimmed and provides a huge 47 barrels of browse for feeding our giraffes, elephants and camels here at the zoo.”
The zoo farm has designated areas for British wildlife amongst the 110 acres of North Somerset countryside, including wildflower meadows, over 100 bird nesting boxes and conservation areas.
Elephant dies after attack
Noah's Ark staff report that it is with deep sadness they announce the death of one of our male African elephants, M’Changa.
The elephone died following an altercation with one of its other elephants here at the zoo.
The dedicated team of elephant keepers are understandably distraught.
It was in the early hours of Friday morning, June 18, another bull elephant went into the area where M’Changa was asleep, and an attack ensued that unfortunately left M’Changa with fatal injuries.
A full review is now in progress, including an investigation into events surrounding the incident and looking at future plans to establish the best way forward for the elephant programme at Noah’s Ark.
The bull elephant group have 24-hour access to the outside and inside areas of their enclosure. They are typically social animals so having the option of being together is an important part of elephant welfare.
The facility, Elephant Eden, has been previously commended on its best practice with specialist elephant keepers, 20 acres of space to roam and extensive efforts made for enrichment and sustaining healthy, active elephants.
At the time of the incident, the zoo was not yet open to the public.
Noah's Ark other bull elephants, Shaka and Janu were unharmed.
M’Changa, aged 12, arrived at Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm in 2014 from Boras Zoo, Sweden and had very much become an integral part of the male bachelor group of elephants.
Janu also arrived in 2014 and Shaka, in 2018. After a lengthy process of introduction, all three elephants have successfully lived together for more than three years.
The elephants play a hugely important role as a male population that can be transferred to other facilities as breeding bulls to contribute to breeding programmes.
A BIAZA (British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums) senior spokesperson said: "BIAZA is saddened to hear of the news of the unfortunate loss of an elephant at Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm.
“Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm has one of the largest elephant facilities in the UK and Europe.
"The bachelor elephant group at Noah’s Ark plays a key supporting role serving wider African elephant conservation efforts as an important part of the European Endangered Species Programme.
"Our thoughts are with the dedicated elephant care staff at Noah’s Ark.”
In the wild, African elephants are Endangered according to the IUCN red list.
They are threatened by poaching for ivory and habitat loss due to continuing human population expansion.
The zoo prides itself on informing and educating guests that visit the zoo of their endangered status and the importance of conservation.
Research into bachelor elephant behaviour in the wild has shown that male elephants will naturally leave their family herd in adolescence and will often then group together with other solitary males, forming a bachelor group. These bachelor groupings are important for young bulls to learn social skills and new behaviours from the older males.
There will typically be one large dominant bull who will guide the younger bulls, sort out any disputes amongst the group and can often show displays of dominance.
Bull elephants are large and powerful animals. Their behaviour in the wild and in zoos, can often typically be active, boisterous and can at times be aggressive.
M’Changa, Shaka and Janu enjoyed special bonds as part of the group, often displaying brotherly relationships.
Many keepers and visitors alike have shared their passion in the mission to raise awareness about this important species.
Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm managing director Larry Bush said:"We have no doubt that many people will be saddened to hear of M’Changa’s passing.
“The Noah’s Ark team are incredibly passionate about all the animals at the zoo and M’Changa’s loss will be felt very deeply.
"He will be missed dearly by all staff as well as our members and visitors. "We will continue to help promote and contribute to the conservation of elephants into the future.”
Noah's Ark gets gold accessibility award
And the accolades keep on coming as this week it is announced Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm is the winner of not one but three regional south west tourism awards.
This follow its success at the Bristol, Bath and Somerset Tourism Awards when the Wraxall zoo farm was nominated for three regional awards.
The winners were announced via Zoom on Thursday, April 22, with the best tourist attractions, accommodation, cafes, and information services rewarded for all their hard work over this challenging year.
The first ever virtual ceremony for the tourism awards took place via zoom with the best of the tourism sector across the south west attending (virtually).
Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm was proud to win not one but three of the prestigious awards:
Bronze for Large Visitor Attraction of the Year;
Bronze for Ethical, Responsible and Sustainable Tourism; and
Gold for Accessible and Inclusive Tourism.
The team were particularly thrilled to have received ‘gold’ for Accessible and Inclusive Tourism after a huge push by the zoo to become accessible for all visitors.
Their Ark For All initiative which started in 2018 aims to support all visitors in having a great visit to the zoo.
In recent years, the initiative has seen the installation of a Changing Places toilet complete with hoist and changing bed, accessible play equipment, accessible signs as well as improving their car park to make it more accessible to wheelchair users.
The Noah’s Ark team have also undertaken training in Autism, mental health awareness and British Sign Language. The increase in accessibility and inclusivity has seen a sharp rise in the numbers of visitors with disabilities and their families visiting the zoo.
One visitor said: “One of the very few fully accessible places to visit in Bristol! My daughter had a wonderful time, thank you for including all children.”
This year’s Ethical Responsible and Sustainable Award was sponsored by South West Water which placed a huge emphasis on water conservation.
Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm harvest a huge amount of rainwater from the roofs of their animal houses which can be used to fill pools for animals and to water plants.
Noah’s Ark is devoted to teaching the next generation about the importance of protecting and conserving the natural world as well as teaching young people practical skills through their volunteer and work experience programmes.
More recently, Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm planted more than 5,500 trees on their 110-acre site as well as installing 100 plus new nest boxes for native birds.
Managing director Larry Bush said “We are absolutely thrilled to have received these awards which highlight the dedication of our talented and committed team.
“Accessibility is such an important aspect of tourism and at Noah’s Ark we’re working hard to be as inclusive and accessible as we can through our improved facilities and through awareness and training of our team.
“It’s a huge honour to be recognised for our progress with these tourism awards.”
Noah’s Ark is open seven days a week from 10.30am-5pm from February to November and 10.30am-4pm in December and January.
Noah's Ark win at Zoom award event
Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm is the winner of three Bristol, Bath and Somerset Tourism Awards.
After much anticipation the Bristol, Bath and Somerset Tourism Award winners were announced via Zoom on Thursday, March 18, with the best tourist attractions rewarded for all their hard work over this challenging year.
The first ever virtual ceremony for the tourism awards where each finalist was encouraged to wear black tie.
This resulted in an unusual combination of work wear and formal clothing for the team at Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm.
Managing director Larry Bush and customer experience and events coordinator,Rhian McIntosh represented the zoo at the special online ceremony and truly entered the spirit of the event.
Rhian said “It was certainly a unique experience to wear a dress with welly boots along with waterproofs.
"However, it reflects the diversity of the work we do here and made us all smile in what has been an extremely challenging year.”
Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm was proud to win not one but three prestigious awards.
Large Visitor Attraction of the Year silver
Ethical, Responsible and Sustainable Tourism gold
Accessible and Inclusive Tourism gold.
This is not the first time the zoo has won awards for its sustainable tourism efforts.
Noah’s Ark is hugely devoted to teaching the next generation about the importance of protecting and conserving the natural world as well as teaching young people practical skills through their volunteer and work experience programmes.
Recently, Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm planted more than 5,500 trees on its 110-acre site as well as installing over 100 new nest boxes for native birds.
The team were particularly thrilled to have received the gold for Accessible and Inclusive Tourism after a huge push by the zoo to become accessible for all visitors.
In recent years they have installed a Changing Places toilet complete with hoist and changing bed as well as improving the car park to make it more accessible to wheelchair users. T
he Noah’s Ark team has also undertaken training in autism, mental health awareness and British Sign Language.
Larry said: “We are absolutely thrilled to have received these awards which highlight the dedication of our talented and hard-working team.
"It’s a huge honour to be recognised for our progress as a green tourist attraction and an inclusive and accessible zoo.”
Noah’s Ark is open seven days a week10:30am-5pm until November when it switches to winter hours10.30am-4pm in December and January.