There are New Discoveries Round Every Corner at Paradise Park
Paradise Park holds many accolades for its fabulous conservation work. In addition to being first and foremost an award-winning wildlife sanctuary for birds and threatened mammals; it is also a place for all the family to come for fun and gentle education.
The park is situated around a walled subtropical Victorian garden and covers 14 acres. The exotic gardens are home to a wide variety of plants from around the world, that thrive here in Cornwall’s climate. The gardens are beautiful especially in the summer when in full bloom.
As well as its many species of birds and mammals, it has a host of other attractions for all the family to enjoy. Bird lovers will love the many tropical birds, there are more than 130 species with detailed information on each species.
This is a venue where you can get close to many of the animals, with new species often added. There are opportunities to pet and feed some of the fun farm animals, or see the penguins and otters being fed by their keepers.
Take a ride on the mini train Zebedee that takes you round a route of the house grounds twice, so you get to see both sides of the grounds. Please note the train can’t run in bad weather.
During the summer season many birds fly free at certain times through the day. A stunning group of Scarlet Macaws can often be seen out and about for several hours a day. And, when possible, the staff will be reintroducing some of the more close-encounter experiences with little parrots and penguins. Please check the website for the latest information.
The outdoor Paradise Island play area will entertain young visitors and allow them to blow off steam. For wet days head to the JungleBarn indoor play centre; children will love whizzing down the giant slides and scrambling round the challenging multi-level soft play area, there are loads of sections to explore. (At the time of writing, you need to book ‘Park & JungleBarn’ tickets to include the indoor play area in your visit).
The café offers a great selection of drinks and lunches including cream teas and the famous Cornish Pasty, as well as tasty snacks when hunger pangs strike. Visitors are welcome to take along a packed lunch to enjoy in the large picnic area. The Bird in Hand pub which at the entrance to Paradise Park, is perfect for lunch or dinner, some evenings there is live music.
We got to chat with Alison one of the Directors whose family founded and run Paradise Park.
Hi Alison. Thank you for taking the time to chat with us.
How did the sanctuary come about?
"I had been the proud owner of canaries at age 6 and my dad developed an interest in parrots when he took on an Orange-winged Amazon called Major. We lived in Kent and he worked in London but when he gave that up he had more time to look after birds and amongst others, cockatiels, a pair of cockatoos and touracos were added. We made a family visit to Birdland in Bourton-on-the-Water, and he had a vision that his hobby could become a way of life. He planned to move to Cornwall, which we had often visited and set up his own bird garden."
How many animals were part of the sanctuary in the beginning and how many are there now?
"It was the sheltered Victorian walled garden that attracted us to the property in Hayle, and that was the first part open to visitors in 1973. We can’t have had more than a couple of hundred birds but over time this has grown to 1,200, plus Red Pandas, Otters, Red Squirrels, Harvest Mice, Donkeys and more farm animals."
How do your animals come to you? Are they local or do they come from afar?
"There is a good network of curators in the zoos and bird collections of the UK and Europe, as well as a worldwide database of all the animals with their records on ZIMS (Zoological Information Management Software). You can search for say, a female Pesquet’s Parrot, to join the male you have and then get in touch to see if they can be matched up."
"Our emphasis is on the conservation of rare creatures so we have many pairs of some species to ensure the genetic diversity of the offspring."
"Some animals, such as Red Pandas, have a ‘Studbook Keeper’ so they will allocate which panda would be perfect to join your group. That’s why our staff collected a female Red Panda from Copenhagen Zoo, and happily she has gone on to produce seven young so that worked out very well."
What is a typical day like?
"The Keepers are the first ones in, preparing the mountain of food which is needed each day. They all have a certain part of the collection to care for, feeding, cleaning, medical needs, and maintenance of the enclosures. Some keepers are also present at feeding times or flying shows. They are a hardy bunch and have to work in all weathers. Indeed, during the pandemic, several Keepers moved in on site to help ensure the welfare and care of birds and animals continued in case any staff became ill with covid. The Park opens at 10am and all the staff are very approachable and happy to help and answer any questions."
Are there any unexpected animal friendships at the sanctuary?
"Lots of us feel a special connection to individual birds, and as parrots are long lived and often have very big personalities they do develop friendships over decades. My brother Nick has a favourite friend in Max the Umbrella Cockatoo, they often walk around the Park together."
"We have had two weddings between staff as well!"
What conservation and animal welfare initiatives are you involved in?
"We are home to the World Parrot Trust a registered charity established here in 1989 by my father, Mike Reynolds. This enables us to work for conservation in the wild around the world as well as at Paradise Park itself. So far, the Trust has helped the survival of 80 species of parrot in 43 countries. We are also home to Operation Chough, a conservation project established at Paradise Park in 1987. We breed choughs in captivity and are working with our partners to establish groups in several locations. One great success is that choughs are now wild and flying free in Jersey for the first time in over 100 years, with more projects coming soon in the UK."
What are the challenges of running a wildlife sanctuary?
"Every day is different at Paradise Park! The seasons guide a lot of what we do, with a lot of excitement in spring. This is the start of nest building and egg laying for many birds and we are busy planning new events for our visitors for the coming summer season."
"Obviously, the pandemic put us under a lot of pressure - we couldn’t furlough the birds and animals and our Keepers are our essential ‘key workers’. Every day we were closed we needed a minimum of £46,000 to feed and care for over 1,200 birds and animals, plus electricity, water and maintenance. We were able to get some grant funding, but donations of money and food from the local community and further afield was vital in getting us through. And now people visiting is helping further with our recovery, we can’t thank everyone enough."
How can people support the work you do? Obviously, people can donate and visit, but are there any ways that are particularly helpful to you?
"Thank you for asking. By supporting us at Paradise Park, we in turn can continue with the conservation projects we have in place for Red Squirrels, owls, choughs and the endangered parrot species we have at the Park though our work through the World Parrot Trust. On our website we have a ‘Donations’ page which includes details of donating to certain animals or birds for their food etc, plus there is a ‘Food Donations’ list available should people want to buy relevant food for certain species which can be dropped off at the Park. We also have an Amazon Wish List, which includes a variety of items, including equipment for making enrichment toys, or ingredients for nectar for some of the parrots, or grooming items for the donkeys etc. The list is updated with items that we need at that point in time with full details on our website."
What is your advice to people who want to make a difference in the fight for animals?
"One of the best ways is to support your local zoo or sanctuary, many will be involved in worthwhile conservation projects. And like us they may be breeding species to be reintroduced to the wild and have expert knowledge and experience in this field so are in a great position to be able to make a difference."
Have you got a favourite animal here at the sanctuary?
"Well, I don’t like to show favouritism, but the Palm Cockatoos are magnificent. They are large and look amazing but are very gentle, they blush and stamp their feet."
"But even after all these years I am charmed by the flamingos. Their long legs and necks, their vibrant colour, their weird beaks. You could hardly make up these magnificent beasts which light up the walled garden lawns and ponds."
When people visit Cornwall what should be on their list?
"There is so much to see and do. Apart from visiting us… there is the amazing coastline, and if you’re lucky you may just see choughs in the wild here in Cornwall. There are some wonderful attractions, the most incredible food, and stunning scenery. I would certainly suggest planning your trip to get in as much as possible of what Cornwall has to offer."
A huge thank you to Alison for taking the time out of your busy schedule to make our visit so special. We loved learning all about the animals and very much enjoyed meeting them all, it was a very memorable experience. We highly recommend paying a visit to Paradise Park yourself so that you can see exactly what makes it so fun and special.
Don’t miss the family fun at Paradise Park Wildlife Sanctuary, please visit https://paradisepark.org.uk
Address: 16 Trelissick Road, Hayle, Cornwall, UK, TR27 4HB
Telephone: 01736 751020