The Cotswold Wildlife Park celebrates its half-century

Rhinos in front of house at Cotswold Wildlife Park

There’s an additional reason to visit the ever-popular Cotswolds this year: The Cotswold Wildlife Park & Gardens is celebrating its 50th anniversary

On 27th March 1970, a bright and sunny day, the Cotswold Wildlife Park opened to the public for the first time. In a superb parkland setting and with a listed Victorian Manor House as a backdrop, it soon became a popular local attraction.

A low-key operation, in the park’s early days there were 12 mammal species (including wallabies, tapirs and llamas), 62 bird species and 20 species of reptiles and amphibians.

Rana at Cotswold Wildlife Park

The Park developed steadily, regularly acquiring new species. A reptile house was added in 1971, rhinos and zebras arrived in 1972 and the park’s narrow-gauge railway – still a firm favourite with visitors – opened in 1975. The following year, one of the UK’s first insect and butterfly houses opened at the park.

An Anaconda’s arrival in 1971. It measured 19 foot

In the 1980s leopards and tigers arrived, joined by Asiatic Lions in the 1990s. Since 2000, the gardens have been developed to such an extent that the sight now attracts horticulturalists as well as animal-lovers: the gardens are a vibrant burst of colour in the spring and summer.

Sifakas, like all lemurs, are naturally found only on the island of Madagascar

Highlights of the park today include the rhinos – new calf Stella, the park’s sixth rhino birth, was born in September 2019 – as well as up-close encounters with giraffes. There’s also a huge variety of birds and one of the UK’s largest reptile collections. A range of daily activities includes penguin-feeding in the Walled Garden and lemur-feeding in the spectacular ‘Madagascar’ walk-through.

Here’s to the next 50 years!