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“In Need of Attention”

Dartmoor Zoological Park
Ranked #1 of 1 things to do in Sparkwell
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: More than 3 hours
Owner description: Small friendly wildlife park/zoo on edge of Dartmoor featured on BBC TV series and the home of Hollywood movie, We Bought A Zoo starring Matt Damon.
Reviewed 5 May 2012

Now that this small zoo has received much publicity as a result of the newly-released film ('Honey, we've bought a Zoo' - April 2012) the pressure is really on to match new visitors' expectations.
And while the smallish collection of animals all looked happy and healthy, the same can't be said for their surroundings! As others have reported, once you have managed to find the location, you're greeted by a dilapidated entrance and car park with a very steep climb to the Zoo proper - less fit visitors should be tempted to invade the disabled car park at the top of the hill! And we saw no evidence of the advertised 'shuttle-bus' service.
The restaurant/shop/toilets building is pretty basic and seemed to be staffed entirely by teenagers on the day of our visit (We saw only three adults at any time during the day?).
The animal enclosures, whilst spacious, were very overgrown and the only ones with any thoughtful design seemed to have been inherited from the previous owners.
All-in-all, despite low entry prices, this Zoo Park compares so poorly with nearby Paignton that survival seems a bit dubious unless the film proceeds result in a substantial injection of funds.

Sorry, Mee family - visitors will be aware of the tragedy that dogged this project from the outset: time to move on, maybe?

Thank capitalstraveller
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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1,020 - 1,024 of 1,071 reviews

Reviewed 5 May 2012

Poor customer service on the entrance - we weren't offered a zoo guide or a map by the rather sullen girl on duty - consequently spent our visit wondering around disorientated. Poor facilities - grotty toilets, and shabby and rather unclean restaurant, we were glad we'd packed a picnic.
Some of the exhibits are badly signed or information is missing and its not clear which exhibits are open to the public and which areas are being developed. The best part was the wolf, tiger and lion enclosures.
There is allot of work to be done to bring this up to scratch of places like Paignton Zoo and even the Shaldon wildlife trust. In fact we wished we had paid the extra £10 and gone to Paignton Zoo instead as for £35 we only spent 2 hours there.

2  Thank Claire C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 17 April 2012

We had read the book by Benjamin Mee and were looking forward to our visit, so we were disappointed to find that there were so many things that needed updating, repairing or renewing. It was as though the zoo had been open for a few months rather than a few years and our impression was that there was simply not enough money to do the job properly. To be fair to the owners, all of the animals appeared to be in good condition and in comfortable surroundings, which were clean and big enough for them. But the tarmac drive up to the zoo from the car park was in a poor state of repair - my twelve-year old son tripped twice and sprained his ankle - and the toilets were horrible. There was a number of derelict cages and others with animals in them, but no labels e.g. the caracara was on its own in a small cage with no identifying label. We didn't go to the restaurant, which looked very smart, as our tour of the zoo - including a good half-hour spent at the tigers' enclosure - took less than two and a half hours in total. So there was only half a day's entertainment, which cost £48.75 for five of us - not great value compared with other attractions in Devon and Cornwall and other zoos elsewhere. So I'm afraid that overall we were sadly disappointed and came away feeling that the zoo may have been bought, but now needed a big investment to bring it up to scratch.

Thank SHDJ
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 16 April 2012

Having known the story of the park, my children watching the film at the cinema and seeing the park on kid's t.v, we were all very much looking forward to our visit at the weekend. I came here on a school trip many years ago and really nothing very much had changed at all, such a shame. Things were looking very run down, fencing around the park has seen better days, parts of it hanging off, some parts just missing and having been replaced with what looked like plastic police tape. The toilets were just awful, dark, grubby & unfinished. The walkways were poorly kept, brambles and nettles everywhere. It looked like somewhere poeple hadn't visited for years and years. My children were really quite sad about it having been so excited in the car for 2 hours and looking forward to the trip all Easter, wont be going back again in a hurry. It has been described as a "project" on here, a project that should be closed untill they've actually finished it i think. The cost for a family of 4 was £35, having spent in total an hour and a half there (including time to eat our lunch), it really was money not very well spent.

Thank MelissaFalmouth
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 15 April 2012

I visited the Zoo today with my two daughters aged 8 and 10 and we spent almost 2 hours strolling round the park. There is nothing particularly wrong with the restaurant,shop , toilets etc. although I have to say that the so called play area is a joke - a few up-ended cable "bobbins" or whatever they are called and some logs on the ground! Saying that knowing that this is a small zoo, one can scale one's expectations accordingly. I am however left with a strong feeling though that there is really no point to this zoo. In many cases there seemed to be just one of each species, with information saying that the particular animal preferred a solitary existence or were too dangerous to be in a pair. I hate to see animals caged for no particular reason. There appears to be no conservation programme, the enclosures are shabby to say the least. The water "holes' were green with algae in many of the cages and the poor solitary Otter seemed very distressed , manicly walking up and down one particular path in its cage. We didn't see the bears, Jaguar or foxes as the amount of undergrowth in the pens obliterates the view, or the animals are in their sleeping quarters or the access paths only allow you to see one side of the pen. It seems cruel to put a fox in a concrete walled enclosure - do people really want to see this? And to see the 2 sorry Owls housed in barren cages awaiting the 2.45pm falconary display was pathetic. I think this Zoo either needs to make a serious go of it and seek investment or close down and find alternatives for their poor animals. I must stress that all animals looked healthy. However, I suggest anyone thinking of going to visit should consider whether their money may be best deployed in other animal welfare or conservation causes. Having visited the zoo, i won't be hiring the film. So what......"you bought a zoo" .......and congratulations, the animals are healthy, but please get things sorted - it's 2012 after all. it should be better.

1  Thank SouthWest127
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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