Welsh Mountain Zoo is the National Zoo of Wales, run by the Jackson family. Set in the beautiful North Wales countryside, visitors can see and learn about wildlife from around the world including snow leopards, bactrian camels, red pandas and sumatran tigers. The zoo works co-operatively with the local and conservation communities to educate the public and save endangered species.
Address: The Welsh Mountain Zoo, Colwyn Bay, Conwy, LL28 5UY
Telephone: +44 (0)1492 532 938
Mike Williams, Business Adviser, Social Business Wales:
"It was a pleasure to work with the friendly, professional and highly successful team at Welsh Mountain Zoo. Social Business Wales was able to support them through the delivery of a strategic plan, in conjunction with the full board. This will provide a basis for their future decision-making and development to ensure that their growth and expansion continues along their identified paths"
Welsh Mountain Zoo
Communities, conservation and camels - Nick's Story
I was born into zoo life. The Welsh Mountain Zoo was founded by my father in 1963. It was his life ambition to have a zoo, having already run a business that provided animals to zoos and film/TV companies. He also ran aquariums, including one in Colwyn Bay. The local authority knew of his aims to run a zoo and we found a site.
It was amazing to grow up with all of this going on around me. It meant that I didn’t always focus on schoolwork! Dad invited me to Florida to collect animals for zoos, which was a life changing experience. I also worked in Frankfurt Zoo at the age of 16 and had trained at London Zoo.
When my father passed away, it was my mum’s decision to keep the zoo going, along with my brothers and I. We call came into the business at that point.
We converted what was a private family business into a charity in the late 1970s. In 2008 we approached Welsh Government and other zoo institutions, with the aim of becoming the National Zoo of Wales. This is something we’ve been ever since, but operate under the name of Welsh Mountain Zoo.
We’re now planning for succession, for life at the zoo beyond the Jackson family.
"...I was born into zoo life... It was amazing growing up with all this going on around me, but meant that I didn't always focus on schoolwork!.."
At the moment, we’re in the middle of a process of redevelopment - no zoo can ever stand still, our facilities are always changing. At the moment, we’re running a rolling programme of smaller scale facilities for animals including flamingos, rheas and swamp wallabies. The next big animal project is for snow leopards, by bringing their accommodation up to date.
Visitors are our main source of income but we’re always looking for grants and philanthropic sources. The site was an old Victorian private estate, and we work to retain its character but try to make it a modern experience.
We’re very much part of a community – the zoo community, local community and wider conservation community. We’ve developed a new education centre, while we also put on a community weekend earlier in 2017, with half price entry.
I’m now heavily involved in the British and Irish Zoo Association, as well as being involved in the wider community of zoos. I’m also a government zoo inspector. Having 45 years’ experience of working in zoos, I can make more of my skills now than I could when I was younger. Even though things changed with my dad’s passing, and how we came together as a family to run the zoo, I would have still worked with animals and at other zoos had I not been here.
"... I passionately believe that zoos have a future...they have an important role to play and are now much more about conservation,endangered species and communicating with public..."
The Welsh Mountain Zoo has built a strength, a resilience in the face of adverse weather conditions which can potentially affect visitor numbers. We’ve been going for 54 years; at first there was a lot of hand to mouth existence. We remain cautious though, knowing that several wet summers can have an impact on us, but we’re now in a strong position to plan for future developments and our infrastructure.
When it comes to retiring, I don’t want to be a founder that finds it difficult to let go but I don’t want to completely walk away either. I will step aside in terms of running the place but I will definitely retain an interest. Outside of the zoo, I would like to improve my photography, as I love the North Wales scenery. I might also write some of my memoirs.
I passionately believe that zoos have a future, while they are sometimes questioned, they exist because of public support. I believe they have an important role to play even though they are so different from 50 years ago. Zoos are now much more about conservation and endangered species and communicating with public - zoos now co-operate and work together.
I always had a passion for working on what my father started. I say ‘Believe in what can be achieved’ and we’ve achieved a lot. There is more to be done here and that’s what drives me.