The Tropical Butterfly House, Falconry and Wildlife Park will mark its 25th anniversary this month with a series of celebrations
Celebrations will commence on Saturday 23 March with a giant Birthday cake for the animals and fun activities throughout the day.
The park is renowned for its collection of exotic animals and endangered species from around the world. Now a landmark for the local area, the park originally came from humble beginnings. It opened during the midst of an economic downturn and started out with just a butterfly house, a nature trail and a small café and shop.
Jo McDonough, operations director joined the park 19 years ago when she left school and has dedicated her career to her love of animals, she explains,
“The park opened with just three employees, butterflies, peacocks, a tarantula and a snake. Many more animals followed and we quickly discovered that the key to our success was allowing visitors to get close to and handle the animals they love. I’m proud to say the same ethos remains with us today”.
25 years on visitor numbers have grown to over 150,000 per annum (in 2018) with a 60+ team of dedicated staff who work hard to connect people with the animals.
The Tropical Butterfly House has changed extensively over 25 years with many highlights along the way, including:
- 2000 - the park welcomed its longest-term resident a 20-year-old Caiman called Darwin who lives here with his loyal partner Pedra.
- 2013 - Lemur Heights enclosure opened by the late Barry Chuckle of The Chuckle Brothers, it took around six months to construct with the building work completed almost entirely by the parks dedicated staff. Home now to 7 ring-tailed lemurs and 3 red-ruffed lemurs.
The Tropical Butterfly House remains proudly owned and run by the same family that founded it in 1994, headed by managing director Kim Bellis who took over the reins earlier this year and following in her father’s footsteps (the parks original founder). Kim has spent her life living and working at Tropical Butterfly House, she explained,
“The legacy of my dad’s labour of love is still very clear today, which is to promote and conserve the natural world around us and beyond. The huge success of the Tropical Butterfly House is just as it was when it all began, to inspire the next generation’s passion for nature.”
The wildlife park is also an oasis for native British wildlife. Purpose-built pond environments have attracted many endangered species, including the common newt, frog and toad, great crested newt and grass snakes. Over 100 nest boxes are a refuge for birds including the tree sparrow, a red data species, which has successfully seen one breeding pair in 1998 grow to forty pairs last spring. The park also owns three other conservations sites (in South Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and the Peak District). Not open to the public, they are managed with wildlife in mind to help protect and encourage native species.
Looking to the future, Andrew Reeve, wildlife park manager explains the vision for the coming years,
“The focus is firmly on endangered species, to join the many species that have been added over the years, from lemurs and otters to vultures. This has driven our fundraising efforts, for example when visitors see the lemurs and learn about their story, they are essentially helping to raise funds for survival in their native wild habitat”.
The Tropical Butterfly House is open daily, all year round and is located five minutes from the M1, junction 31, with free parking. See www.butterflyhouse.co.uk to plan your visit.