West Midland Safari Park turns 50 today – and they're celebrating with a really wild party.
For half a century, the park has welcomed over 30 million visitors, bringing them closer to nature and inspiring the next generation of conservationists. WMSP first opened its doors on 17 April 1973 and, since then, hundreds of species, many of which are classed as endangered, have lived here, including elephants, rhinos, lions, tigers and giraffes.
Head of Wildlife, Angela Potter, has been at the Park for 43 years, making her the longest serving member of staff. She says: “We are very excited that 2023 is our 50th anniversary, and who better to join in the celebrations than all of our lovely animals. Throughout this special year we will be providing them with animal-friendly cakes, presents and lots of enrichment to ensure we are celebrating our wildlife too.”
Many of the animals who live at the Park today were born there and are part of breeding groups for endangered species. This includes ring-tailed lemur Bakari, who turns ten on the same day the Park turns 50. Meanwhile, over on the safari, the Indian rhinos have been treated to a huge birthday cake, covered in their favourite tasty treats. They first came to the park in 2010 and are another conservation success story, with the first calf, Inesh, born in 2020. Inesh will soon be moving to another wildlife collection, to hopefully start a family of his own.
The Bewdley attraction has an exciting history, from the moment it was officially opened by famous Hollywood actress Sophia Loren to a troop of 130 baboons escaping to spend the night in the local town all in the first two years of opening (all 130 were returned, not to the amusement of the neighbours!).
Managing Director, Chris Kelly (pictured here), joined the Park in 2020, but as a local lad, he has been visiting for over 40 years. He has some fond memories of when he used to visit in the early days and says: “When the park first opened, records noted a total of 447 animals, including a turkey, fourteen fish tanks and a guard dog! Thankfully, 50 years on, our current residents are a lot more exciting and we are proud that we house over 120 species, with more than 1,000 individual animals.
“I’ve seen many changes since being a guest, but none more so than the three years I’ve been MD. We’ve upgraded many of the animal habitats and facilities, donated thousands to conservation charities, welcomed new species such as red pandas and we’ve introduced onsite accommodation, so guests can stay with us overnight for the first time in our history.”
As well as the animals, the Park is including guests in the celebrations with a whole host of events, giveaways and offers. For example, guests visiting the park today on the anniversary date (17 April) can buy tickets online with a 50% discount, using code WMSP50. Later in the year, the park will be hosting a conservation dinner with award winning TV presenter Michaela Strachan to raise money for their five conservation partners.
Further information about West Midland Safari Park is available from the Park’s website www.wmsp.co.uk or by telephone 01299 402114. Find out more on the Safari Park’s official Facebook page: www.facebook.com/WestMidSafari