I am wearing a long mesh skirt, which attracts the attention of multiple curious noses, and they start to dart in and out of my feet, climbing around the mesh as they scrabble for more worms….
“Bugtopia is a family owned small zoo with an emphasis on interactivity and affordable fun for the entire family. Bugtopia was formed in 2012 as a way to get kids interested in the super heroes of our world – Bugs! Winning an award in their first year for the hands on educational meet and greets, was a fantastic achievement for such a young business, and it has grown in strength ever since. The passion and enthusiasm shown by the staff is a breath of fresh air for young and old alike. In the Winter of 2014 a wonderful opportunity to acquire a premises perfect to expand Bugtopia came about, 7 months later the doors to Bugtopia The Zoo were opened!” [source]
Following on from our adventure to Bugtopia Kettering we discovered that Bugtopia the Zoo was not too far away from us… and we just knew we had to add it to the Adventures List!!
Little did I know that this trip would become even more of an exciting adventure than I had anticipated!… Stuart was acting weird. He was rushing me past some of the exhibits, eager to get to the Meerkat enclosure. I mean… we are both fans of their furry little antics, but he was not normally this keen!! As he finally pestered me enough to make my way through to the Meerkats, we were greeted by a keeper, and I quickly realised Stuart had decided to surprise me with a Meerkat feeding experience as an extra present for my Birthday!! I love you Stuart, you really know what makes me happy in life!!
The feeding experience was fantastic! and I found it so amusing to be “on display” as the keeper gave a talk to the surrounding guests while we fed the Meerkats. I loved interacting with them as they jumped up on our laps to get the mealworms we had for them, and it was really amusing watching them dart in and out of my long skirt, and climb over my feet!! They are such beautiful animals, and I adore their playfulness. Thanks again Stuart, this experience was brilliant, and I feel super spoiled!!
Did you know? Meerkats have excellent eyesight. They can spot predators, such as eagles, circling in the sky from more than 300 metres away. They have excellent peripheral vision, which is further enhanced by the dark patches of fur around their eyes that help to minimise the glare from the hot desert terrain.
“Our Mission: Conservation through Education. Here at Butopia The Zoo it all starts with the idea of bringing an interactive experience to people whilst educating them of the importance of preserving the wonderful biodiversity that exists in our world today ‘ Conservation through Education’.” [source]
While small, Bugtopia the Zoo makes for a big day out. If you plan your time well you can enjoy the various keeper talks, and handling experiences throughout the day, as well as coming and going from the centre to enjoy the natural beauty of the surrounding Rutland Water. We attended every keeper talk and handling session of the day, and I am glad we used our time wisely to do this, as they were wonderfully educational and captivating. Don’t be one of those people that quickly darts around the zoo in 30minutes because you have not taken anything in!!
Bugtopia is primarily made up of invertebrate and reptile species, with some notable mammals including the aforementioned Meerkats, Raccoon Dogs, Agoutis, and Bats. The zoo has over 75 species for your to discover! The vast majority of the animals living in Bugtopia are rescues taken in from the pet industry, or from other zoos, and in one case stowed away in someone’s luggage!!
Alongside this passion for rescue, the centre is promoting conservation through their Project Honeycomb. “Bees are an important and required component of our biodiversity. Several species are threatened with extinction and some species can only be found in certain areas now within the UK. We aim to ensure that populations of the remaining species have a long-term future in the UK. To achieve this we will endeavour to create Bee safe havens by protecting areas of wild fauna, increasing public awareness of how easy bee conservation can be and doing data services in and around the local areas for population numbers and try to increase this through public seeding schemes.” You can read more about this project here.
I only have one small complaint about the centre, and that is the smallness of the Raccoon enclosure. I noticed that there were signs stating that they were trying to fund-raise for a bigger and better developed enclosure. I hope to see that being worked on in the not too distant future, as for now, the Raccoon was perhaps the only unhappy resident at the zoo. However, the programme of education delivered at Bugtopia the Zoo is really inspiring, and we enjoyed every one of the keeper talks and meet and greet sessions. I admired the fact that the keepers were keen to keep mentioning how important it is to do your research before taking on any pet, and to make sure you know what you are getting yourself in to before bringing exotic animals into your home. With so many rescued animals dotted around the centre, I can see why they were keen to ensure this point was getting across to the visitors!!
Bugtopia the Zoo at a glance…
10:00 – 16:00 daily (excluding bank holidays)
Adult – £7.50
Child or Concession – £6.50
Under 2’s: Free
Address: Sykes Ln, Empingham, Oakham LE15 8QL OR use Google Maps here.
Parking is available next to the centre, but at a small charge.
There is a small cafe at the Rutland Water Visitor Centre which is a short walk away.