Marwell’s 50th anniversary!

We’re celebrating our 50th birthday! That’s 50 years of conservation and sustainability efforts and educating the next generation to take care of the natural world we all share.

Marwell’s story

Visit our 50th anniversary interpretation display from 26 May opposite the exit to Fur, Feather and Scales to find out more about Marwell’s story so far, our charitable impacts through the years and how you can help us make a difference.

From our early beginnings as a breeding centre for endangered species, Marwell has evolved into a more holistic conservation organisation focussing on the restoration of species and ecosystems, promoting sustainable living and catalysing changes needed to improve the fortunes of people, wildlife and the wider environment.

In the last 50 years, the human population grew from 3.7 billion to 7.8 billion people. In the next 50 years, there may be 10 billion people sharing our planet and experiencing ever more rapid changes in society. We are therefore facing unprecedented demand on biodiversity and other natural resources.

Whatever changes are around the corner, one thing is for sure – Marwell will continue to adapt to make a difference and will remain a place to enjoy and learn about nature while supporting our work in the wider world!

Queen’s Award for Enterprise: Sustainable Development

Her Majesty the Queen has given Marwell the royal seal of approval to our environmental commitments with a coveted award. The Queen’s Award for Enterprise: Sustainable Development will be presented to us at a reception hosted by HRH The Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace in the summer.

The award recognises our achievements in biodiversity conservation, education and sustainability, highlighting  our successes in reintroducing the extinct scimitar-horned oryx to its natural range in Tunisia solely from captive bred stock as well as our unique Energy for Life: Tropical House, which processes zoo animal waste for conversion into carbon neutral heat to power buildings around the zoo. Read more here.

Honouring our founder Dr John Knowles OBE

We have erected a monument in memory of our founder Dr John Knowles OBE. The standing stones were designed and created by internationally renowned designer and sculptor Gary Breeze, a contemporary artist revered for his memorial work. They take inspiration from the geology of Africa and, in particular, key species important to John and Marwell; the Grevy’s zebra and the reticulated giraffe.

John Knowles founded Marwell out of his dream to create Britain’s first zoological collection specifically for the breeding of endangered animal species.

Having purchased Marwell Hall and its 417 acre estate in September 1969, John opened the zoo to the public on 22 May 1972. His energy and tenacity prepared the way for zoo-conservation consortia, and led to the establishment of cooperative breeding programmes in Europe, a concept which is now central to modern-day captive breeding. Read more here.

Plant a tree

To mark our special year, we’ll be asking you to support us in planting thousands of trees around the Marwell estate to give back to nature and our community for the next 50 years and beyond. Trees breathe life into our world, and it’s vital we create more natural habitats for native wildlife, help feed our animals here at Marwell Zoo, create beautiful spaces for our guests and to tackle climate change, together. With your help, we will be planting trees this Autumn 2022 for a special 50th anniversary project. More details to come!

Rooted in our original Saxon name, ‘Merewell’ and history as an ancient park, we’ve been surrounded by what is now one of the UK’s most valuable natural habitats; semi-natural ancient woodland for centuries. The management of Marwell’s woodlands can be traced back as far as the 14th century when huge oak trees were used to construct parts of the original Winchester Cathedral. As we mark our 50th year as a conservation charity, it’s important we help wildlife to thrive into the future.

Why are trees so important to Marwell?

  • Trees are an important habitat for our local wildlife and animals are dependent on them. Planting more trees will support a diverse habitat for British wildlife from insect pollinators and small mammals to birds such as our resident barn owls.
  • We coppice our trees around the estate for a source of nutritious and medicinal food for our own zoo animals, so once the trees mature, you’ll be directly helping to feed your favourite zoo residents. Animals such as giraffe, okapi and bongo will enjoy a plentiful supply of twigs and foliage known as ‘browse’ which they naturally eat in the wild.
  • Did you know we process the waste from our animals for conversion into carbon neutral heat to power buildings around our 140 acre wildlife park? After eating, zoo waste is burnt for heat at our Energy for Life: Tropical House while the ash is added to our compost process and then returned to the land. Read more here.
  • We are well on track to becoming carbon neutral in the coming months but we need to work together to overcome the climate crisis. When you plant a tree, this contributes to reducing emissions as these plants suck up carbon.
  • We want people to enjoy our historic, beautiful and natural estate for generations to come. Each day, we see the positive impact escaping to nature has on our valued guests and we want your children and grandchildren to create new memories with their friends and family in our leafy green spaces for the next 50 years.

Autumn Tree Trail

To mark our 50th year, we’ll be launching a new interactive Tree Trail around the zoo this Autumn. Guests will be guided along the route learning about our beautiful and fascinating ancient trees dating back to the 17th century. More details to come!

Visit our Gift Shop

As an extra treat, our gift shop has launched a range of custom 50th anniversary items. These collectable items will be available from our main gift shop for a limited time and will feature a selection of pieces with various commemorative designs.

The collection will include keepsake items designed by our talented designer, such as a tea towel originally hand drawn in the 1980s, notebooks, and pens with a special 50th design inspired by our current branding and a variety of postcards featuring artwork over the years. Don’t forget each purchase made in our shop is a very welcome contribution to the care of our animals in the zoo and our conservation work around the world.

Scimitar Horned Oryx Oryx Dammah Marwell Zoo Hannah Pearce Scimitar Horned Oryx