Isle of Wight Zoo Trip

As part of the Heritage Lottery funded Wild About Wight programme we have been able to offer a series of trips for our older Vectis residents to explore important locations and landmarks of the East Wight. We also linked this trip to Age UK’s ‘Celebrating Age’ programme of events. Last Sunday, we set off to Sandown Bay to explore the Isle of Wight Zoo, set by the sea in a historic Palmerston Fort with its stunning views of the AONB.

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On meeting at the zoo, our group gathered in the Education Room to listen to a talk from Tracy Dove, who leads the Education Department. Tracy gave us a brief history of the zoo, which has existed on this site since the 1950s. It is very interesting to hear how zoos have changed the kind of work they do in recent years, with a much greater emphasis these days on conservation and education. The IW Zoo is involved in three main areas of conservation work – with tigers in Southern India, the prevention of deforestation for wildlife in Madagascar, and with habitat protection for our own Reddish Buff Moth that lives here on the Isle of Wight. The Reddish Buff Moth is a protected species that is found nowhere else in Britain, except in one small (closely kept secret) location on the Isle of Wight. The IW Zoo is working with the Hampshire and IW Wildlife Trust to survey the area twice a year for the Reddish Buff Moth to monitor the population.

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Following the talk, the group had the opportunity to explore the rest of the zoo at their own pace; we met some of the keepers who were very knowledgeable about the animals, and happy to answer questions. Surprisingly, despite the cold weather, the animals are often more active at this time of year than in the summer, so it is a very good time to visit the zoo. Although all the animals we saw were very interesting, we all fell in love with the cute and friendly-looking lemurs from Madagascar, and were awestruck by the beauty and size of the majestic big cats.

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The zoo is housed in a historic Palmerston Fort, which was also used during the Second World War as a pumping station for the PLUTO project, which provided vital fuel to allied troops in Europe after the D-Day landings. There is a small but informative PLUTO exhibition housed in one of the arches of the Palmerston Fort.

 After the trip around the zoo, we warmed up at the next door Brown’s Café for a sociable lunch. Just in time too, as the rain only started as we took shelter in the dry.

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