The Sampson and Whitnall family have transformed the ‘worst zoo in Britain’ into an award-winning conservation charity.

Hertfordshire Zoo has recently embarked on an exciting transformation, unveiling its new rebrand. Previously known as Paradise Wildlife Park, the zoo enhanced its facilities and expanded its offerings.

The initial phases of the Zoo’s renovation and transformation included the dismantling of numerous old buildings, animal enclosures and fencing. Upgrades were implemented to enhance the infrastructure, including improvements to the water supply, gas pipes and electricity supply. Facilities such as the former café, an animal food preparation room, a veterinary room and a staff room were provided to support operational needs.

“After years of hard work, the Sampson and Whitnall family have completely transformed what was known as the worst zoo in Britain to an incredible charity with a focus on the conservation and preservation of endangered animals at its core,” said marketing manager Jagz Bharth.

Eastern Daily Press: Left to right: Laura Bielinski from LOCALiQ, who presented the award, Jagz Bharth, Hannah Iontton, Cassie Jones, Ian Jones, Lynn Whitnall, Aaron Whitnall, Rob WhitnallLeft to right: Laura Bielinski from LOCALiQ, who presented the award, Jagz Bharth, Hannah Iontton, Cassie Jones, Ian Jones, Lynn Whitnall, Aaron Whitnall, Rob Whitnall (Image: Matthew Potter)

These improvements led to Hertfordshire Zoo winning the Experience of the Year award at the East of England Tourism Awards 2023-24.

“Winning this award filled us with a sense of pride and motivation to continue striving for excellence in everything we do,” said Jagz. “This recognition isn’t just a trophy – it’s a symbol of the trust and confidence placed in us by our community and industry partners.

“It inspires us to expand our efforts, striving to exceed expectations and set new standards of excellence in everything we do. It’s a reaffirmation of our purpose and a catalyst for even greater achievements in the future.”

After its transformation, Hertfordshire Zoo is now home to more than 800 exotic wild animals – ranging from the biggest tiger species to the smallest known monkey, the pygmy marmoset – alongside roaring animatronic dinosaurs in the World of Dinosaurs attraction.

“We remain steadfast in our dedication to providing unforgettable experiences and inspiring a deeper appreciation for the natural world,” said Jagz.

Eastern Daily Press: Hertfordshire Zoo is home to more than 800 exotic animalsHertfordshire Zoo is home to more than 800 exotic animals (Image: Hertfordshire Zoo)

In April 2023, the zoo announced its newest enclosures, Jaguar Jungle and Sun Bear Heights, which consist of a mixed-species habitat of sun bears, binturong and Asian small claw otters. Jagz hopes that efforts such as these will spread awareness for the protection of these species.

“Central to our mission is the desire to shine a spotlight on the invaluable conservation efforts undertaken by zoos worldwide. By showcasing our incredible work, we hope to inspire our visitors to become stewards of the natural world and empower them to make a positive difference in their own communities.”

The business expects to welcome its highest ever number of visitors in 2024, with its goal set at more than 500,000. Jagz said that this success can be attributed to the zoo’s online presence – Hertfordshire Zoo is one of the leading zoos on social media with more than one million followers across all platforms.

“Our social media presence has seen remarkable growth, reflecting our team’s concerted efforts to connect with our audience in meaningful ways,” Jagz said. “This increased visibility not only amplifies our brand’s message but also cultivates a vibrant online community centred around our shared passion for wildlife conservation and education.”

Also, the zoo’s TV show on CBBC and BBC iPlayer, One Zoo Three, has contributed to increased success and visitor numbers. The show follows brothers Aaron, Tyler and Cam as they show what it’s like to look after the animals, while teaching children about conservation.

“As we embark on this new chapter as Hertfordshire Zoo, we invite our community to join us on this journey of discovery, learning, and conservation,” Jagz said.

“Together, we’ll create unforgettable experiences and forge lasting connections that celebrate the beauty and diversity of the natural world.”

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