Noah's Ark zoo farm
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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.
ANIMAL MAGIC: More fab photos in the Gallery 2021
Planting trees at zoo farm
During the latest lockdown Noah’s Ark zoo farm at Wraxall has been busy planting trees - see photos below.
The two phases project saw more than 5,500 trees planted in and around the zoo including 2,500 mixed native hedging whips of field maple, hawthorn, spindle, gelder rose and hazel trees.
This will form hedgerows in the top sheep field to create four new paddocks for its British farm animals rare breed project.
The remaining trees were used to repair pre-existing arable field hedges where sections had collapsed. These areas were removed to enable the establishment of the new hedges, with much of the damaged hedgerow being used as browse for our elephants, giraffes and camels, so nothing was wasted.
In addition, a further 55 larger, established hornbeam, oak, lime and field maple trees were planted around the zoo. This will create extra shade for visitors in the picnic areas and also for animals in their enclosures.
National Grid Hinkley Project added 3,000 more trees at the zoo farm which will form windbreak hedgerows and wildlife corridors on the boundary and between paddocks.
Managing director Larry Bush said: “Our tree planting initiative is a key part of our commitment to the environment as a green and sustainable zoo.
“Trees have so many environmental benefits including creating clean air, reducing the impact of climate change and of course providing habitats for native wildlife.
“During the past two decades we’ve planted more than 45,000 trees across our 200-acre zoo and farm to provide a lasting legacy for the environment.”
The area of woodland in the UK at the end of March 2020 is estimated to be 3.21 million hectares.
Covid rules end Christmas tree donations
People have been told not to drop off their unwanted Christmas trees for animals at a North Somerset zoo farm - because it is not classed as an essential journey, writes Bristol Post reporter Heather Pickstock.
North Somerset Council is asking people to stop taking their festive firs to Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm at Wraxall as it is against Government ‘stay at home’ rules.
The zoo farm announced late last year that it was once again taking in trees which they use for animal enrichment and food for their animals - including African elephants, Andean Bears and the lions.
The council says rather than driving to the zoo farm, people should either put their trees out as part of its green waste kerbside collection or take them to one of its recycling centres.
A North Somerset Council spokesman said: "Following the national guidelines to ‘Stay at Home’ and only travel if it is essential, we must ask that residents no longer take real Christmas trees to the Noah’s Ark Zoo in Wraxall.
“Those registered to the garden waste service can put their real Christmas tree out for recycling on the first collection day between Monday and Friday, January 18-29.
“If it is not safe to store your tree at home and you are not signed up to the garden waste service, you can take your tree to the recycling centre but please be aware they are open for essential use only.
"Only one person should exit each vehicle unless you are unable to lift the tree on your own, then two from the same household can do so.
"Please be aware staff will not be able to help with loading/unloading at this time.”
People using the recycling centre are also being asked to stay two metres apart from staff and other users and wear a mask and use hand sanitiser.
Last year the zoo farm was inundated with trees after it was mistaken for a zoo in America asking people to give their festive firs for the animals.
Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary in Georgia put out an appeal on its social media channels asking for people to donate their used trees at the end of the festive season.
The appeal was spotted by people living in the Bristol area, who mistakenly thought it was an appeal by Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm in Wraxall and the post was shared widely on social media.
As a result the farm was given more than 1,000 trees in just a few days for their animals.
Zoo closed until further notice, farm shop open
Following the government announcement on Monday, January 4 the Wraxall zoo has taken the decision to close immediately.
If you have tickets already purchased, please contact the office via email on email@example.com or call the office and we can make alternative arrangements or refunds for admissions.
CEO Larry Bush said: "Our animal team will continue to provide the best of care for all our animals and we hope to see you at the zoo shortly.
"We are still accepting Christmas trees.
"We have a drop off point at the top of the car park, near the Farm Shop"
The Farm Shop remains open seven days a week 9am-4.30pm selling a range of local produce including veggie boxes, meats, cheese, flour, eggs and pasta.
It also sells ready meals cooked by its chefs and take away coffee and snacks.
You can call the Farm Shop on 01275 853023 to speak to staff.
Larry added: "Your safety is our priority so the farm shop holds the Visit England Good to Go award, as well as being AA accredited."
Open seven days a week
For many of us celebrating Christmas this year, the average Christmas dinner is roughly 1,000 calories.
For those looking to burn off some of these calories, the main loop around the zoo is approximately 1 kilometer, so in order to burn off your dinner, you need to do 10 laps around the zoo.
Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm is making some big changes this year, in addition to opening seven days a week all year round, they are for the first time ever, going to open between Christmas and New Year.
After a short closing for Christmas from Wednesday, December 23, the zoo will now be open Monday to Thursday, December 28-31.
The zoo will be closed for New Year’s Day and then reopening on Saturday,January 2, continuing seven days a week for the whole of January and 2021.
Managing director Larry Bush said: “2020 has been a challenging year for everyone, including the zoo.
"We would like to thank all our supporters over the last year, we couldn’t have made it without you.
"As we have been closed for so much of the year, we want to offer our members and visitors a safe and fun place to visit during the holidays.”
During the lockdown in November, the zoo took the opportunity to resurface the disabled Blue Badge car park.
This is a key stage in the zoo’s long-term plan Ark For All campaign to make the zoo as accessible as possible.
Phase 1 of this plan was competed in July 2018 with the opening of the Changes Places toilet facility and inclusive play as part of its main features.
Fireworks blamed for zebra death
A young zebra called Hope who was spooked by a firework has died at Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm.
Hope died on Wednesday, November 4. Zookeepers think Hope was frightened by the loud bangs from several local firework displays.
This caused her to bolt and she collided with the boundary of the enclosure, said a spokesman.
A post-mortem examination revealed this sudden impact caused her immediate death.
Zoo managing director Larry Bush said: “We’re feeling devastated by the loss of our young zebra Hope.
“She was so full of energy and life and she was a very healthy young zebra.
“It is such a tragedy that she has lost her life, seemingly as a result of fireworks being set off at nearby events which were intended as a celebration.
“We know this was not the intention of local organisers and people letting off fireworks but it does demonstrate in a tragic way the impact that fireworks can have on animals – whether this be zebras, horses, native wildlife or pets in our homes.”
Senior keeper Jayne Gibbins said: “Her birth was a real high point for us in amongst the challenges of having to close the zoo for three months in support of the national lockdown and we are all feeling her loss greatly.
"As a zoo, we are determined that something good can come out of this situation.
"Our hope is that by sharing this story, everyone will become more aware of the effect fireworks can have on animals.
"We would like to use this tragic event as an impetus for change and we really hope that people will now think hard and adopt alternative arrangements for celebrations, including silent fireworks or more animal-friendly options."
A huge debate on banning fireworks followed when this article was posted on the Nailsea People Facebook page.
PHOTO: Hope and mum
Zoo is open on Sundays
Noah’s Ark is delighted to announce the extension of our Sunday openings.
Following the overwhelmingly positive feedback from their wonderful visitors, both last year and this year, they have decided to continue with Sundays from now on.
This means the zoo will be open for seven days a week until Wednesday, December 23, 2020.
The zoo will close for a short break over Christmas and will reopen on Saturday, January 2, 2021, seven days a week!
Managing director Larry Bush said: “It seems like the right time to move to seven days a week.
"Our members’ and visitors have enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere that Sundays bring and as a zoo, we need to be flexible in the current climate.
"We can offer people fresh air and beautiful open countryside as well as the opportunity to re-connect with animals and nature and we believe it’s especially important to do this right now.
"The zoo was severely hit by the three-month lockdown closure.
"However, thanks to the tremendous support of our members and visitors during the summer period we are in a good position going forward”.
The zoo hopes that all customers will continue to enjoy a special day out together at Noah's Ark and look forward to welcoming visitors every day of the week.
In normal times Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm™ attracts more than 200,000 visitors annually.
It all began in 1999 with lions, bears, giraffe, zebras, rhinos and gibbons finding a home at the Wraxall farm.
As well as the longest hedge maze in Europe, visitors can enjoy huge indoor and outdoor adventure playgrounds. Currently tickets have to be pre-booked.
For more details click HERE.