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Banham Zoo

Address The Grove, Banham, Norwich
Telephone 0195 387476
How to Find it: Leave the A11 Thetford to Norwich road at Attleborough and take the B1077/B1113 to Banham. The zoo is signposted from there
Open: All year from 10.00 am
Area: 10 hectares / 25 acres
No of Species No of Animals Star Rating
Mammals 44 340 Conservation ** *
Birds 78 242 Enclosures **
Reptiles 12 49 Education **
Amphibians Recreation **
Fish Research **
Total 134 631
Click here for a Link to the Zoo’s own Web Pages
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This critique last updated:  Nov 2010

Official Description

Visitor Reviews

GoodZoos.com Reviews

Banham Zoo began life as a collection of pheasants and parrots which opened to the public in 1968. In 1971 it became 'Banham Zoo and Woolly Monkey Sanctuary’; thanks to a splendid colony of woolly monkeys that arrived that year. Today it is simply 'Banham Zoo', and although it still holds one of the finest collections of monkeys in Europe, these are no longer the sole attraction at what has become a diverse and interesting collection.

The zoo occupies an open site of around 25 acres, surrounded by an expanse of arable farmland. The site is well maintained, clean, and attractive, and it makes for an easy stroll among the animals and gardens. Most cages and aviaries look new, and many have indoor areas which can be viewed through glass. There is a large car park with an adjacent garden centre, farm shop and pet shop, and every month they hold Norfolk's largest car boot sale here.

Monkeys and gibbons are one the main attractions within the zoo, and Banham have a very good reputation for keeping and breeding a large number of species. The guide book for the zoo uses the symbol of a ringing alarm clock, its hands set at five minutes to midnight, to highlight the species for whom time is running out; brightly coloured Diana monkeys from West Africa, the imp-like little black Goeldi's monkeys from the Upper Amazon, large acrobatic siamang gibbons from Malaya and Sumatra, ring-tailed lemurs from Madagascar – these are all creatures for whom the alarm is sounding, and all have bred at Banham. The cages for the monkeys are rather variable in their design. Some, like the enclosures for the ruffed lemurs are very spacious, others, like the silver leaf langurs and some of the gibbons were once rather unexciting. While this didn’t prevented the langurs or the gibbons from breeding here, but perhaps for a zoo that specialises in primates, the accommodation needed to allow for more climbing, with more space and more height. A new gibbon complex, with more height and space was opened in 1995.

There are several groups of marmosets and tamarins here, and each species seems to be kept in good sized groups. Perhaps the best are the emperor tamarins, recognisable by their droopy white moustaches, and the tiny pygmy marmosets, smallest of all the living monkeys.

One group of monkeys that have a superb climbing area are the blackcapped squirrel monkeys from Bolivia. They have what must be the best monkey island in any British zoo, a wild cluster of trees that hides a dozen or more little monkeys within its dense canopy. The 'monkey jungle island' is away at one corner of the zoo, down a peaceful woodland walk where there are wallabies, flamingos, waterfowl, and cranes including the easily recognisable crowned crane from East Africa. This area of the zoo has been well landscaped with splendid walkways, and you find yourself having to look around for animals in the trees and the undergrowth (don't animals seem far more exciting when you have to search for them than they do when presented in a sterile cage with no concealment?).

Two other exhibits at Banham vie closely with the monkey jungle for special recognition. The maned wolves have an excellent wooded compound, perhaps half an acre or more in size, and the pair of wolves look splendid. Alongside is an information kiosk (what an excellent idea), a shelter from which you can watch the animals, and where a tape recording provides plenty of information about them. From it you can learn that the maned wolves have bred successfully here, and that their cub has now departed for another zoo. This idea of ready information on tape is copied again in places around the zoo, to very good effect.

But for many visitors the pride of Banham Zoo are the snow leopards. They are the only large cats at the zoo, a bold decision when most visitors expect at least tigers and lions; but the decision is a calculated one, and it allows Banham to devote the effort and space to these endangered cats that many zoos devote to less threatened creatures. Their enclosure is large, clean, and interesting, there is glass-fronted viewing inside and out, and if you have the good fortune to visit at a time when the leopardess has cubs to care for, as she did in 1989, then you may find yourself in for a very long stay at this enclosure.

Other cats at Banham include ocelots and Geoffroy's cats in good new cages. There are a wide variety of grazing mammals, like the Grevy's zebra, sika deer, and camels, and there are chimpanzees in a compound, which does not really reflect the best about Banham Zoo.

The bird collection is large, and well housed. Apart from the water fowl and flamingos, there is a huge assortment of owls, one of the finest collections in the country, including the little burrowing owl, hawk owls, various eagle owls, and a captive bred pair of great grey owls, the first pair ever to be seen in this country. There are also plenty of parrots, kookuburras, emus, and Rothschild's mynahs, among many others. There is also a small reptile house.

A new £100,000 penguin pool opened in 1992 features around thirty blackfooted penguins and provides good underwater viewing.

For children Banham has a large education centre for a small zoo, and there is a playground with climbing frames, and a pet's and farmyard corner which is open and clean, but mainly consists of rabbits and goats.

Banham is a new zoo, but its heart and its intentions seem to be in the right place. It is a pleasant place to visit, its collection of animals is well balanced and focussed upon species that it can manage well. Until September 1991 visitors to Norfolk could choose between two splendid collections of monkeys. Less than thirty miles west of Banham, just North of Thetford, was Kilverstone Wildlife Park with its unrivalled collection of South American primates, and particularly of spider monkeys. But Kilverstone closed its gates after only eighteen years of operation, citing poor visitor numbers and lack of cash. Most of the rarer monkeys departed for zoos in the USA. Banham may be the unwitting beneficiary. Kilverstone, in its hey day, would attract up to two hundred thousand visitors a year. Many of these must now go to Banham. If they do, they will find a less specialised collection, with fewer endangered species than Kilverstone. But they will find an interesting, positive, zoo that deserves to succeed, to build and improve, as it will surely continue to do so.

Species List


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