Marwell Zoo, Hampshire, UK

0 Conversations

Marwell Zoo is a zoological park located near Eastleigh and Winchester in Hampshire. Since opening in 1972 under the name Marwell Zoological Park, the 140-acre zoo has been actively engaged in conservation efforts. While the zoo, which is owned by the Marwell Preservation Trust charity, particularly specialises in ungulates and felids, there are many other different types of animals also.

The zoo is usually explored in a clockwise direction, with the gift shop near the entrance and where you can join the miniature railway at Penguin Station. The animals in the zoo may change over time with new enclosures constructed or old ones repurposed for other uses, but the basic layout has remained the same since opening.


When visitors have passed through the entrance, the first half of the park consists of a path on the left and a path on the right. These ensure that the half of the park closest the entry is a simple, straightforward triangle, with the Hall at the centre of the path joining the two. The half of the zoo furthest from the entrance is a large rectangle with multiple criss-crossing paths.

Following a clockwise route from the entrance, just past the gift shop where the free Road Train stops and the first food kiosk, is the penguin tank.

Penguin Cove

Penguin Cove consists of a deep pool, pebbly beach, small stream and a rocky outcrop containing nesting boxes. Humboldt penguins (Spheniscus humboldti) are considered Vulnerable by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation). Visitors can watch the penguins as they swim and waddle from numerous vantage points, including through glass built into the side of their tank, from all around the outside of their enclosure and even from up above on a special viewing platform. Penguin Cove opened in 1996. In 2009 it attracted the attention of the world's media when a penguin named Ralph lost all his feathers and so was given a special wetsuit to wear instead.

Located here is the Penguin Cove play area suitable for 0-6 year olds.

Opposite the area is the Penguin Station for the miniature railway. Also in this area are the Capybara, the world's largest rodents, and Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus).

Into the Heart of Africa

The Heart of Africa area was opened by author Wilbur Smith in 2006. Passing the penguins visitors next head into the area dedicated to African animals such as Grevy's zebras (Equus grevy,) an endangered species with only approximately 2,800 left in the wild. Nearby is the cheetah enclosure (vu). The cheetahs can often be seen watching the zebras nearby and can be seen from a viewing bridge built in 2009.

Other animals sharing the fields with the zebras, including ostriches and white rhinoceroses. Also located here are the scimator-horned oryx, which became Extinct in the Wild in the late 1980s but Marwell's breeding programme has led to the release of these magnificent animals to four Tunisian national parks and reserves. Five pairs of oryx from Marwell and Edinburgh zoos released in Bou Hedma National Park in 1985 now totals over 120.

This leads to the Giraffe House and Lemur Loop. Here there are Rothschild's giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi) who can be seen either indoors or in their wide, open field, with a viewing platform for visitors. The Lemur Loop opened in 2019 and allows visitors to get close to three species of lemur - black-and-white ruffed lemurs (Varecia variegata), a crowned lemurs (Eulemur coronatus) and ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) – as well as green peafowl. Other animals in the area include the Mountain bongo and Lesser kudu. The Amur leopard viewing platform in this area is, at time of writing, closed to the public and due to be replaced and upgraded. The Giraffe House bus stop is here.

Wild Explorers

A new area for 2015 was Marwell's Wild Explorers area, which combines allowing better views of the central fields where white rhinos, scimitar-horned oryx, ostriches and Grevy's zebra live and breed, viewable from a raised boardwalk, as well as an indoor 'discovery zone' with hands-on attractions, a playground, picnic area and animal houses. Among the animals nearby are Amur Tigers, yellow mongoose, Okapi and Dik-dik. The park's main eatery, Café Graze, is also located here next to the meerkat enclosure, with Arabian oryx, addax and Dorcas gazelle also nearby.

Outside the Wild Explorers section is the Tigers bus stop.

Tropical House

Marwell Railway

The Marwell Railway attraction at Marwell Zoo is a diesel-powered steam-outline miniature railway locomotive named the Princess Anne, after patron of the park Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal. The 15-inch gauge 900-yard track runs on the right-hand side of the zoo. The main station is near the zoo's entrance, beside the gift shop, and has another station at the furthest end of the zoo near the Encounter Village, although trains rarely stop or pick up passengers from this point.

The zoo railway has been operating since 1987 and riding on it is charged in addition to the zoo's admission fare. Tickets can be purchased on the train by card, or by cash from the gift shop.

History of Marwell Hall

The history of Marwell can be traced back to 950 AD when the lands were granted by King Edgar to Winchester's Hyde Abbey. Marwell Manor was built in the 12th Century along with a large deer park and what is believed to be the largest complex of mediæval fishponds in Europe when Henry de Blois was Bishop of Winchester, for use as one of his residences and as a college for secular priests.

By the late 1520s Henry Seymour, Jane Seymour's brother, was leasing Marwell Hall from Corpus Christi College, Oxford. The college would own and lease the estate until 1868. During the Civil War there was a minor skirmish at the Hall on 2 March, 1644, when the Hall was held by sixty Parliamentary troops. A troop of about 200 Cavaliers had spent the day drinking in Winchester and decided to drunkenly attack Marwell. This resulted in many of the Cavaliers getting themselves killed or captured.

In the 18th Century the Hall passed to George Dacre, who built the South Wing in order to match the North Wing and make the hall symmetrical. Unfortunately just before this was finished the North Wing burnt down...

One of the tenants of the hall in the 19th Century was John Gully, who a butcher after being imprisoned for debt turned to prize-fighting to pay his way out, once losing a 64-round boxing match. After living in Marwell for ten years he moved to Yorkshire, had two wives consecutively, twenty-four children and became MP for Pontefract.

During the Second World War the estate was bought by the Cunliffe-Owen Aircraft Company, who had been based at Eastleigh Aerodrome, now Southampton Airport. During the war the only authorised way for pilots to fly to the aerodrome was to first land at either Middle Wallop or Worthy Down Airfields to request permission to fly in and discover which barrage balloon lane was open. Cunliffe-Owen turned the estate into a dispersal airfield where they converted Spitfires into Seafires, the Naval version and adapted Halifax bombers to carry H2S radar.

The estate was bought by John Knowles in 1968 specifically to turn into a zoological park to breed endangered animals.

History of the Zoo

John Knowles spent £1 million in developing the 417-acre estate into a zoo, opening it only three years later in 1972. When asked why he fought so hard to open the zoo, he has replied,

I was convinced then, and I still am today, that many animals have no future. Therefore it was vital to create a zoo that would keep species going.

The zoo's early success also benefited from the construction of the M3 motorway, which allowed easy access to the zoo for people travelling from London.

Among the pioneering steps that Marwell Zoo adapted from the beginning was using mixed paddocks of large groups of animals grazing together, after being told it was 'impossible', and playing a key contribution to the establishment of co-operative breeding programmes in Europe.


The zoo is always participating in numerous conservation programmes, regardless of whether or not it will bring the public into the zoo. For example it is contributing to snail breeding programme, which lacks the glamour of Amur leopards. Marwell's teams of biologists works closely with the communities that animals are released back into in order to ensure their lasting viability.


IUCNInternational Union for Conservation:
LCLeast Concern
LRLower Risk
NTNear Threatened
CRCritically Endangered
EWExtinct in the Wild

Bookmark on your Personal Space

Conversations About This Entry

There are no Conversations for this Entry



Infinite Improbability Drive

Infinite Improbability Drive

Read a random Edited Entry

Written and Edited by


h2g2 is created by h2g2's users, who are members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the Not Panicking Ltd. Unlike Edited Entries, Entries have not been checked by an Editor. If you consider any Entry to be in breach of the site's House Rules, please register a complaint. For any other comments, please visit the Feedback page.

Write an Entry

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. It has been compiled and recompiled many times and under many different editorships. It contains contributions from countless numbers of travellers and researchers."

Write an entry
Read more