History of Linton Zoo
Cambridgeshire's Wildlife Breeding Centre
Above: Len Simmons with Dusty, our first lion, February 1972
Welcome to Linton Zoo from the Simmons Family
Linton Zoo has evolved out of our family's love, interest and concern for the wildlife of the world.
In January 1972 we moved from Bishops Stortford, Herts where we had a thriving pet shop and zoo suppliers business, to Linton where we could establish a centre for breeding wildlife. Our large private collection of exotic species and the stock left unsold at our shop when we moved, formed the nucleus of our present day collection.
Len's daughter Kim, with Dusty's great grandson Riziki aged 5 weeks August 2003
The Ignorance and greed of our own human race has driven many species of wildlife to extinction. Mainly through over-hunting and the destruction and alteration of natural habitats. We have always believed that the destruction of natural habitats will continue and the rate of extinction will increase until man realises his error. Man is destroying the tropical forests at an alarming rate - an area three times the size of Switzerland is lost every year. during the 'great dying' of the dinosaurs the extinction rate was a possible one species per thousand years; today it is estimated at one species per day, a shameful increase brought about by our own human race. Endangered Golden Lion Tamarin.
Grevy's Zebra Jeanie with her week old foal Zola, July 2003.
Unfortunately many people don't realise or care what extinction really means -but we do
It is obvious that our wonderful wildlife needs all the help it can get if it is to survive into the future. Captive breeding programmes for as many species as possible, including those species not directly under threat at the present time, will ensure a safeguard against extinction. It has always been our aim to create a place where these threatened creatures could be brought to live safely and peacefully and where they could be happy, contented and breed.
The site at Linton seemed to be the ideal place. When we first moved here we were faced with a basic open field, ten and a half acres in size and without trees, shrubs, gardens and enclosures which you see today. We estimated that at least ten years' hard work was needed to transform the site into a successful breeding centre, so we began our endless project of landscaping, planting and building.
Giant tree ferns in the zoo gardens
Mirko, our male Amur tiger exploring his enclosure
We now have a large collection of wildlife ranging from Mexican red-kneed tarantulas and snakes through giant tortoises, hornbills, toucans, parrots, owls and pheasants to beautiful snow leopards, magnificent Amur tigers, Hartmann Mountain zebra and Brazilian tapir. Each year new species are brought in, many of them being part of an international captive breeding programme, so the collection's constantly on the increase.
From the very early stages we have achieved a good breeding record with some 'firsts' to our credit. The gardens now cover 18 acres and are maturing into a wonderful sight which many people now come especially to see. over 10,000 bedding plants are put in every year and we have some interesting trees and shrubs which catch the eyes of even the non-botanically minded visitors.
Linton Zoo achieved the first European breeding of the Southern Ground hornbill
This beautiful little bee orchid popped up in the crane pen last May
The gardens are important to the animals who live here, helping to create a more natural environment; they also provide a home for many different native species who have discovered the zoo to be a safe place to live and breed. During the summer thousands of butterflies also visit the gardens and breed on the wild plants which we leave especially for them. We expect that most of this probably goes unnoticed by the average visitor, but is an added bonus for us, as it is wonderful and very rewarding to see many different creatures moving in to live and breed in the safety of the zoo.