Ethical Travel, the search for ethical zoos in England and across the globe is a hot topic at the moment. The use of animals being used as entertainment for travellers who don’t know any better is central to a lot of debates in the recent year, and rightly so. From the Whale Sharks of Donsol; to the endless list of Elephant ‘sanctuaries’ across South East Asia, even lion walking in ‘sanctuaries’ across South Africa, there is a lot of darkness hidden behind these tourist attractions and because of this, lines have been blurred between those well-meaning sanctuaries and zoos who’s only aim is to line their own pockets.
It’s hard to know who you can trust and what to support when it comes to these topics, so it’s understandable that tourists are becoming more hesitant to visit even the most ethical zoos. It’s safe to say though, that England has some of the best ethical zoos around and you won’t be left disappointed in the way the animals are kept. Here is a list of our favourite Zoos in England that do their absolute best for the animals, inside and out of the soo, ensuring their happiness and conservation remains at the top of the zoo’s priorities:
Are you looking for ways to become a better eco-traveller? Find out more about our 6 favourite plastic alternatives for travellers here!
London is without a doubt one of the best ethical zoos in the UK and despite being so close to the City centre it offers one of the best conservation experiences you could ask for. The habitats here are huge and kept as close to natural as possible. Kangaroos have access to large sweeping sandy plains; The Tigers are able to hide in long shrubbery and grasslands. They also do a lot for the conservation of local wildlife too; Currently tracking the numbers and progress of the Thames Marine Mammals to ensure they remain safe.
Londoners are amongst the worst in the UK for using plastic bottles too, that’s why London Zoo have come up with the #oneless movement which aims to change peoples way of thinking when it comes to using single-use plastic. You won’t find any plastic bottles in their cafes or shops throughout the zoo. That’s just one reason why we love them so much!
Adult prices start at £24.30 so we highly recommend you pack a picnic and make a day of it.
If you’ve already visited the best ethical zoos in England, here are some more off the beaten track type of things to do in London
Woburn safari is one of the ethical zoos in England with a twist. Woburn lets you experience a slightly different insight into the animal’s lives by keeping you in the cages. Stay in the comfort of your car, drive through the wild exhibits and watch the animals display their natural behaviour almost completely free of walls and with minimal human interactions. From bears, wolves and Lions to Rhino and Giraffe there’s plenty for everyone.
In keeping with our other ethical zoos in England, Woburn has an extensive breeding programme to try to keep these amazing creatures numbers up as well as actively help support conservation groups out in the fields. Groups like ‘save the Rhino international’, who are fighting the very real fight against Rhino poaching in Africa.
For a really interesting look into the life of an animal conservationis in Africa, check out this inspring interview!
For an online ticket price of £23.99 (adult) and £16.99 (child) it may seem like a pricey day but you can go around as many times as you like to really make the most of it – Why not be brave and go through the Monkey enclosure and see what mischief they’re getting up to.
Here are some handy tips to make your wildlife encounters even more special!
Monkey World is probably the most recognisable of the ethical zoos in England due to being featured on the popular TV programme Monkey Life, so if you’re familiar with that you know how much hard work goes into rescuing and conserving the many species they house.
Although not technically a ‘zoo’, this centre is definitely worth a visit to help support the global mission that Monkey World is on. Monkey world works with global governments helping pull animals in need out of harmful and illegal situations, meaning that Primates from all across the globe end up here after being rescued from the illegal pet trade, animal testing labs and poachers.
A day visit here will only cost you £12 per adult making it one of the cheapest ethical zoos in England, but they also accept (and are grateful for) donations, also any purchase made in the gift shop goes towards helping the centre too.
Read about our experiences in one of Indonesia’s most famous monkey sanctuaries here!
Yorkshire Wildlife Park
Yorkshire wildlife park is hands down my favourite of the ethical zoos in England, no competition, no doubt in my mind. I have watched this place grow from a little farm with a few rescue Zebra to the large education zoo, often being praised on national news, that it is now.
This is possibly the smallest zoo in the UK (It might have been, but it’s recent improvements and massive extension has possibly changed that.)
It does, however, boast one of the world’s largest Polar Bear Reserves – home to Nobby, Nissan, Pixel and Victor; Four males who have been rescued from all over the world and are hoped to become a part of a breeding programme in an aim to raise the wild numbers of these majestic creatures.
NEW for 2018 in YWP is 4 Nusurri brown bears. Rescued from horrific homes in Japan, these 4 bears are now safe in YWP where they’re able to swim, dig and play on grass for the first time in their lives.
Yorkshire Wildlife Park works with groups all over the world to help save endangered, miss-treated or suffering animals and give them a life they deserve. Their enclosures are huge and it’s a place you’d not expect to find just a short drive from Doncaster, a Yorkshire city with some great shopping. If there’s one thing you can expect from one of the most ethical zoos in England though, it’s a fun and extremely educational experience surrounded by amazing well cared for wildlife
Insider tip; Our favourites are the Giant Otters and just around the corner from them is a cute little hut that does super yummy Churos haha
Once you’ve taken in the beauty of these laid-back bears there is plenty more to see, 4 prides of lions live here too as well as Lemur, Giraffe, Amur Leopards, Tigers and plenty more.
Online Adult tickets are £17.50 and you’ll find several eateries and rest stops planted across the grounds so no need for a picnic. YWP is also supporting plastic free campaigns and is in the process of removing all single-use plastic from their canteens and shops. Have a refillable bottle? I’m sure they’d be more than happy to fill it for you!
Is Chester Zoo ethical? Yes, would be the short answer! Chester zoo’s main aim as an ethical zoo is to educate. Here they offer huge discounts for schools, as well as workshops to help start the learning early. On top of this, they also run global charities supporting animals in Africa, Asia and even in Latin America to name a few. Their latest campaign is for sustainable palm oil, they’re inviting their visitors to take part in their palm oil challenge and help save the animals who are vulnerable and affected by the palm oil trade.
With over 500 animals to admire you really do need a full day to fully explore the vast habitats that it has to offer. Our highlights though were the Andean Bears, the North African Cheetah and the Giant Otters. They are undergoing some major improvements/extensions to habitats at the moment so to avoid disappointment please visit their website!
Adult online tickets here are £28 but considering the size of the place, and the huge effort they put into helping animals across the world – the high price is definitely worth it.
Tips for a perfect day at the zoo
Tickets to the ethical zoos in England can get pricey, especially for big families. Save those pennies by packing a picnic. All zoo’s listed here have amazing facilities for both eating with them and eating your own food, so make the most of it!
Get there early and check out the timetable. If you get there early enough, you’ll be able to catch the early bird displays. Whether it’s feeding times with the tigers or an educational talk with the giraffes, getting there early means you’ll get front row seats and aren’t they the best?
Grab a map. Some of these zoos are pretty big and growing each year. Grab a map and make a list of who you absolutely can’t miss. This will avoid disappointment later in the day if you don’t manage to get around it all in time (again, arriving early will lessen the chances of that happening!)
Reusable water bottle – Almost every English zoo is getting on board with a campaign to remove single-use plastic. By taking your own reusable water bottle you’ll be supporting this and it’s cheaper for you too. Right now you can ask for refills at cafes but don’t be surprised if you start seeing more water stations around tourist attractions like these in the very near future!
While the illegal animal trade and poaching still continue to exist, so will these charities and organisations. We need to do our best to educate not only ourselves but the next generation so that we don’t continue to support the wrong places and ultimately fund the bad guys. I’m really proud of the work our English zoos are doing for animals all over the world so if you ever visit one of these places, I hope you enjoy and appreciate them as much as we do.
Have you been to any of these ethical zoos in England? Which one’s your favourite? We absolutely can’t get enough of Yorkshire Wildlife Park so if you’re ever in the area do your self a favour and go! What conservation groups do you have near you? Are your local zoos just as amazing? We’d love to hear about them!
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I’m not sure how ‘ethical’ Yorkshire Wildlife Park is, given they’re responsible for Cumbria Zoo having their lease terminated today, locked out their staff, and had their machinery stolen, only to find Yorkshire Wildlife Park staff there a few hours later getting ready to take over.
David Gill ran Cumbria Zoo for quite some years, resulting in the death of a keeper by tiger mauling, and over 500 animals, due to neglect; he favoured money over nutrition and care. He lost his license around 2017, and a new management company was formed by the staff that worked there, they put in a lot of investment to build the place up and over the past few years, it’s really grown and improved, so much so, that the council decided to renew their license for a full six year term, something David had struggled with, including threat of complete closure.
In October 2020, the land that the Zoo sat on went up for sale, the freehold was bought around February 2021 by ‘Zoo Investment Company Limited’, who told Cumbria Zoo it would continue as it had done, and be a passive income stream for the investment company, this sounds good, doesn’t it? They get to carry on, an investment company makes a bit of money…
Recently, it turned out they appointed David Gill, the former owner, responsible for many animals death, as their agent, to keep watch on the zoo and ensure it didn’t beach it’s lease agreement.
But where does Yorkshire Wildlife Park come into this? They also have a strong vested interest in Zoo Investment Company, the founder, vice chairman and another member of staff from Yorkshire Wildlife Park.
At 5am today, they found the machinery had been stolen, and the locks changed, they couldn’t feed, water or care for their animals, guards were on site to stop employees gaining access – a few hours later, senior keepers from Yorkshire Wildlife Park arrived, convenient, right? The Zoo Investment Company terminated the lease, meaning Cumbria Zoo is effectively dead, and the investment company (with Yorkshire Wildlife Park), can takeover.
There was no welfare concerns (see recent license extension for 6 years), but it was a growing, popular zoo, recovering from years of abuse by David Gill.
Ethical isn’t the word I would use.
Thank you for your comment. This post was originally posted in 2017, I will do some research and work to update it accordingly.
Looks like a great Zoo to visit. I haven’t been to a zoo since my children were little.
Aww I want to go to the monkey world! I have been to a couple of these and London zoo is amazing! My son loves seeing the animals but I am always hesitant to take him as my sister is really big on conservation and hates the idea of zoo’s altogether
We should help to spread the awareness and educate our travelers in ethical and responsible travel and tourism. Not because you can pay doesn’t mean you can do anything. Let’s exercise respect on every creatures.
we don’t have big zoo over here in Honduras. But i’ll love to go to a bigger one.
Interesting to know! I am planning a trip to England during next months! Will sure consider your list!
I love zoos. When I was a kiddo we would go to the zoo every year at least once! I miss it. I’ve never been to the England ones but I liked the ones we had in the Czech Republic 🙂 so nice. Love your pictures btw, that bear is just cute, hanging out haha
There’s a cool otter sanctuary in Dorset. It’s more sanctuary than so though.
I love visiting the zoological garden. I will keep those locations in mind.
I had no idea there were so many Zoos in England. Visiting a Zoo is one of our favorite day trips.
I have a love-hate relationships with zoos it makes me so sad seeing the animals like that and especially when you hear of whales committing suicide it makes me sad to think of how the animals feel in there.
oh yea, I’ll never support places like seaworld. We do research before visiting any animal attraction to ensure they’re putting the effort in outside of the zoo too. If it wasn’t for places like Yorkshire, and Chester a lot of the charities would have a much smaller backing = a lot more animals going extinct quicker.
I love exploring zoos with my two kiddos. I would love to check out some of the zoos in England someday.
I love checking out zoos. All these sound amazing–we love to go and look at the animals and learn more about them.
We love going to the Zoo. These are amazing shots. I love watching animals in closed up especially those like the safari – it’s so much fun to drive thru and feed the animals!
I live quite close to Dudley Zoo, which is in the ruins of a castle and has lots of interesting architecture. I also love the Monkey Forrest.
I love going to the zoo with my kids. If I get to England, I will check these out for sure.
So cool. I’ve always wanted to visit an interactive zoo like the Woburn Safari. Most of the zoos I’ve been have the animals behing cages and bars and they look so depressed.
I live in Manchester so not far away from Chester and I have heard the zoo is amazing! I should defo go! I’d also like to go to the Edinburgh zoo! xx corinne
I love zoos! One day I will need to visit London with this list and check them out! The pictures of the animals are simply adorable.
Finally! A truly informative post on a very controversial matter. I would visit all these places now I know they are ethical.
Wow they all look amazing! In Vienna we have also a great Zoo called Schönbrunn
I’ve heard such amazing things about the London Zoo! I would love to visit it one day and experience it for myself!
I have a love-hate relationships with zoos. I love that I can see the animals live instead of just pictures in a book, but I do hate the captivity. It’s a good thing though for those whose species are at risk for instinction.
I’m the same, which is why I always research them first to make sure they’re actively helping the wildlife too as well as looking after those that are captive <3