Paradise Wildlife Park: Zoo habitats will help to 'bring visitors back'

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image copyrightParadise Wildlife Park
image captionParadise Wildlife Park hopes its revamped jaguar habitat is just one new feature that will bring visitors "flocking back"

A family-run zoo is hoping new habitats it has built during lockdown will help boost its fortunes when it reopens.

Paradise Wildlife Park in Hertfordshire had estimated last year's income would be £1.5m down on 2019, then saw its hopes to open at half-term delayed.

Aaron Whitnall, one of the brothers who run it, said the impact of lockdown meant things were now "a bit tighter".

But he hoped Jaguar Jungle and Sun Bear Heights would "bring people back time and time again".

image captionAaron Whitnall (right) said a new CBBC show One, Zoo, Three in September had brought people to the zoo wanting to see him and his brothers

Three brothers - Aaron, Tyler and Cameron - help run the wildlife park, which has about 800 animals and sits on land near Broxbourne bought by their grandfather in the early 1980s.

In December, the family said it had been a "hard year" and hoped that if the park could open for February half-term and the Easter holidays "things would be OK".

image captionIn December, Aaron Whitnall said that if the zoo could be open at February half-term and the Easter holidays "things will be OK"

With England going back into lockdown in January, that has not happened, but staff have spent the time preparing the latest developments and everyone is "keeping positive", Mr Whitnall said.

"Obviously [things are] a bit tighter now but we're still OK, there's no immediate cause for concern. We just hope the roadmap goes well," he said.

image copyrightParadise Wildlife Park
image captionSun bears are due to arrive at the zoo in August in what the park describes as its "most ambitious animal habitat to date"

Mr Whitnall said being able to open outside areas on 12 April was a "huge relief" and with rough dates for the further easing of restrictions, they could start making plans.

Jaguar Jungle, a refurbishment of the big cats' old habitat, is due to open at the end of May.

Resident animals Kedera and Kumal will return from a sister site, The Big Cat Sanctuary in Kent, to a new South American-themed area, three times bigger with a pool and underwater viewing.

image copyrightParadise Wildlife Park
image captionThe park also hopes that its Land of the Tigers attraction, which was only open for three weeks before the park closed for a second lockdown, will attract those who missed it

August will see the opening of Sun Bear Heights, where three species, the threatened bears, binturong and Asian short clawed otters, will share a habitat.

The zoo said it wanted to be at the forefront of wildlife conservation, "creating bespoke habitats" where animal welfare is "the top priority".

With each new area, it also explains what is endangering each species.

"We are something Hertfordshire can be proud of," Mr Whitnall said.

"The last year has been a crazy time, the hardest time, but things are as good as they can be and I just hope we have a good year so we can keep redeveloping.

"We've done the best we can under difficult circumstances and hope we are rewarded by people flooding back."

image captionEldest brother Aaron said the family had "always tried to stay positive and be proactive"

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