Animal Adventures

Castles & Animals: A trip to Dudley Zoo

The sun is shining brightly, there is a warm summer breeze swirling the fabric of my dress, and I am moving slowly through the air as adorable fluffy monkeys play on the hillside below my dangling feet….

Hundreds of exotic and endangered animals inhabit an ancient wooded hillside, with a rich geological history, around the ruins of the 11th century Dudley Castle and share a site with the world’s largest single collection of Modernist Tecton structures – and the country’s only vintage chairlift! Our aim is to provide our visitors, via our education and conservation activities, with an understanding and awareness of all elements of this unique site, the history of the castle and the geology, the importance of the architectural design of the Tectons, and the opportunity to get closer to the world’s rarest animals.” [source]

Today’s adventure is our fantastic trip to Dudley Zoo & Castle! I loved the unique setting of experiencing a stunning 12th century castle, surrounding by the joy of animals and conservation stories.
The unusual setting of the castle was the first part of the zoo that we visited on our arrival… Stuart and I are suckers for castles, and beautiful architecture! The motte and bailey construction of Dudley Castle was built in 1070 by Ansculf de Picquigny, and was later succeeded by the Paganel family during the 12th century who became Lords of Dudley, and who made the majority of changes that you see in the castle today. On July 24 1750 a raging fire swept through the castle, and continued for three whole days! The castle remains mostly in it’s picturesque state of ruin today, with some refurbishments made to return areas to their prior grandness. In May 1937 the Earl of Dudley opened Dudley Zoological Society, with Iconic Tecton enclosures designed by Berthold Lubetkin’s team drawing worldwide interest. Within 18 months of opening Dudley Zoo had attracted one million visitors. From there, Dudley Zoo has grown into the magnificent adventure you see today.

One of my top priorities when visiting Zoos is to check out their conservation, research, and education programmes. Dudley Zoo did not disappoint.
Dudley Zoo has had great success with their breeding programmes for Humboldt Penguin, with 183 hatchings, Asiatic Lion, with 5 cubs born, and Sumatran Tigers with 8 cubs born. As well as this, they work closely with a vast number of conservation projects both locally, and throughout the world. You can check out their full list of supported projects here, but for me, those of note include: The Birmingham and Black Country Bat group (Brumbats) that run events, and training courses to record, promote, and protect bats in the local area. The Orang Foundation UK which helps to save orangutans by protecting their tropical forest habitat, working with local communities and promoting research, and education.

Did you know? Adult meerkats are immune to scorpion poison, which is lucky as they form a large portion of their diet. Even without poison as a weapon, a scorpion can still do damage with it’s sharp pincers, so it takes skill for a meerkat to enjoy such a meal. Young pups are not quite ready to take on such a tough meal, so, adult meerkats actively teach the pups how to hunt. It starts off with very young pups being brought dead prey to familiarise them with their food. The lesson will then move on to live prey, but slightly altered live prey, as the adult meerkats immobilise it in some way; perhaps biting the stinger off a scorpion, or injuring a quick moving lizard. These helpful lessons allows the young meerkats to gently learn how to tackle even the toughest of prey, and therefore make them extremely successful hunters in the future. Stay in school kids!

There are a large variety of species to visit in Dudley Zoo. For me, some highlights included: Humboldt Penguins, Snow Leopards, Naked Mole Rats, Egyptian Fruit Bats, Bornean Orangutans, Black Rats, Red Pandas, and African Hunting Dogs.
While some of the older architecture was a little dated, and dilapidated, the animal enclosures all seemed really well-built, with great sizing, and lots of stimulation and enrichment for the animals. I was especially enamoured by the Humboldt Penguin enclosure, and loved how the designers had utilised the natural rocky geography, and slopes to create a multi-levelled home for these penguins, that culminated in a large swimming pool for them. I always really enjoy seeing variety, and ingenuity in enclosure design. There are lots of details to enjoy at Dudley Zoo!

Dudley Zoo at a glance…

Opening Hours
Open Daily from 10:00 – 17:00

Prices

Adult: £17.50
Child (3-15): £15.90
Concessions: £15.50
Child with Disability: £10.50
0-2 Years: Free
Various family ticket options available.
Car Parking Token: £3.50

Getting There
Address: Castle Hill, Dudley, DY1 4QF OR use Google Maps here.

Additional Information
The majority of the site is accessible, though in some areas there are steep, narrow paths, and some areas where there is no step-free access. Most areas do have alternative routes.
There is a cash machine on site.
The site is fully equipped with a variety of cafes, restaurants, gift shops, toilets, and visitor information points.
No dogs, except guide dogs.
Help support Dudley Zoo by adopting an animal here.

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