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Paignton Zoo

Address Paignton Zoo Environmental Park Totnes Road Paignton Devon TQ4 7EU
Telephone 01803 697500
How to Find it: How to find us Getting to the Zoo by car Paignton Zoo is located on the A3022 Totnes Road, 1 mile from Paignton town centre. Once in Paignton follow the brown tourist signs, marked with an elephant and Zoological Gardens. The Zoo is situated near to Morrisons supermarket. The Zoo has a free car park for 1,110 cars on site and an overflow car park a short walk away
Open: Paignton Zoo is open daily (except Christmas day) from 10.00 a.m. Closing times vary throughout the season, so please check before each visit. The Zoo is currently open until 6.00 p.m. with last entry at 5.00 p.m.
Prices: Check with the zoo site (see below for link)
No of Species No of Animals Star Rating
Mammals Conservation
Birds Enclosures
Reptiles Education
Amphibians Recreation
Fish Research
Total 0 0
Click here for a Link to the Zoo’s own Web Pages
Write a review of this zoo
This critique last updated:  Dec 2010

Official Description

Paignton Zoo Environmental Park is an education and scientific charity dedicated to conserving our global wildlife heritage and inspiring in its many visitors a life long respect for animals and the environment.

Visitor Reviews

Review by K Smith March 2008

I visited Paignton Zoo with my family in August 2007 during a weeks holiday in Devon and I have to say it was the best day of the holiday for all of us. We are very familiar with brilliant Chester Zoo and did not have particularly high hopes but were very pleasantly surprised.

When we first arrived and saw the  busy carpark and long queues we were rather concerned that we wouldn't see a thing. But our worries were ill founded for, like with many zoos, Chester included, they are so big that you can quickly escape the masses and feel like you have the place to yourselves.

Paignton felt at first like a smallish zoo,and we began our walk on  a forest path, peering through the greenery at various large birds before suddenly finding tigers through the clearing. As we continued around the zoo we realised that it was a ctually a pretty big zoo and we were quite lost! Perhaps a few more signs would be helpful as we were desparate to see the gorillas. Having a 'King Kong' mad son we found these incredible animals fascinating and could have stayed all day watching them alone.

The centre of the zoo provided us with good sandwiches, icecreams and coffee and a welcome rest before we set out discovering the rest of the zoo.There were huge elephants, camels and  lovely monkeys which caused lots of entertainment.

I would highly recommend this lovely zoo. We had a memorable day out and would definately go back again.

GoodZoos.com Reviews

Once there was a time when some sort of zoo at the seaside was a standard attraction, like the pier and donkey rides and funny hats. But like the pier, and like the hats, fashions have changed and all around the British coastline zoos have been languishing or closing down. There are still several small collections that survive, like Newquay and Sandown, but of the survivors, Paignton is almost certainly the oldest, and most emphatic ally the largest. Paignton Zoo opened in 1923, and predates all but London, Bristol and Edinburgh zoos. It was founded by Mr Herbert Whitley, a naturalist who had kept a private botanical and zoological Collection for several years, and who welcomed the opportunity to share it with the public. He was, however, a stubborn and eccentric man, and twice during the zoo’s history he closed it down as a protest against the entertainment tax he was forced to pay. Zoos, he believed, were educational and not for entertainment. Paignton was the first British zoo to be constituted solely as an educational charity, after Whitley’s death in 1955, and to this day it manages a busy education department among all of its other functions. 
Today Paignton Zoo promotes itself as England’s third largest. This, of course, depends upon how you measure size. In terms of the number of vertebrate species they hold (316), Paignton does indeed come third, after Chester (488) and London (792). The first impression of the zoo is rather like a municipal park. The grounds are tidy but the buildings themselves seem rather barrack-like and slightly dilapidated. Many of the gardens are well tended, but other beds seem strangely neglected. There are, as the figures prove, a very large number of species, yet the design of the place is rather dull and unimaginative, and perhaps too overcrowded. 
The zoo was designed from the outset as a botanical collection as well as a zoo, and many exhibits are just plants. In the main these work well, like the wonderful collection of bromeliads, and it is good to see plants given some status among all of the animal species. Still, it is the animals that most people come to see, and you will see plenty at Paignton. There are a great many birds, and a host of aviaries with various birds of prey, parrots and owls, scarlet ibis, egrets, and pigeons, among many others. There is a tropical house and aquarium with lizards and snakes, featuring Nile crocodiles and dwarf cayman; and a sub-tropical house with some smaller birds, displaying a wonderful variety of shrubs and a tall banana tree. 

Baboons are busy, active social animals, and Paignton shows them well on a large rocky mountain surrounded by a wide moat and a border of flowers. The baboons have plenty of room to rush around, and are fascinating to watch. Nearby is the giraffe enclosure, a gritty paddock with a concrete house, and a monkey house with good spacious glass-fronted cages inside, but the outside pens are small and rather metallic. The house holds the acrobatic black spider monkeys, and diana monkeys, both of which are vulnerable in the wild. 

There is a chimpanzee house, with a small outdoor climbing area, cheetah, lions and tigers (of course), and kangaroos, but probably the best part of the zoo are the open rolling paddocks at the eastern end where there are a wide variety of creatures in much more spacious surroundings. Among the paddock animals are grey kangaroos, zebra, eland, bison, and a lovely herd of red lechwe. There are maned wolves too; these are South Amen- can carnivores and are not true wolves at all, but look something like a large long-legged fox. Their field at Paignton is a generous size, is well signed, and has plenty of cover for these secretive creatures to hide. 

Of all the exhibits at Paignton, one stands out above all the rest. This is a whole area of the zoo that has been custom built for the white rhinos. It is an outstanding exhibit, and gives the impression that considerable thought and expense has gone into its design and construction. The area has been flanked with heavy timber fencing, and has been partitioned by imaginative landscaping. There is a backdrop of well established trees, and the heavy timber continues into the design of the house. The information here is especially good, with photographs and a carving of all five rhinoceros species. 

The education centre at Paignton is called ‘The Ark’. It is well staffed. and imaginative, with activities for all ages. 

Next to the Ark are the elephants, with an interesting landscaped compound, and a small pool. There are two cow elephants on display. 

One of the showpieces of Paignton are the gibbon islands. Gibbons ought to be one of the most spectacular animals in any zoo, but so often their cages are unimaginative and unattractive, and gibbons have a very human habit of looking just plain bored. Paignton has countered this with islands which goes a long way towards keeping the gibbons satisfied, and providing the spectacle that visitors ought to have. The islands stand in the middle of a wildfowl lake, and the gibbons swing confidently in the trees while ducks and geese nest below. A good way to see them is from the miniature railway which travels right around the lake. 

In a strange way Paignton Zoo is a zoo caught between two decrees; on the one hand there is the seaside zoo, anxious to entertain, trapped by the dreadful seasonality of the visitors; on the other there is the serious educational zoo, trying with sparse resources to slough off the heritage of nearly seventy years of antiquated ideas, to create a modern, exciting. conservation zoo. In the 1990s Paignton hopes to spend over £2 million trying to realise some of these dreams. It will make the next decade an interesting one for friends of the zoo. If it results in a slimmed down zoo that can no longer claim to be England’s number three, but instead concentrates upon the species it can keep well, and develops more enclosures like those for the rhinos, then that may be no bad thing. 

Species List


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