July 6 1972 was when, in the pouring rain, the zoo was officially opened – and what a half century it has been.
The zoo actually stands on the site of an airport and it was where the Royal Lancashire Show was held. It has evolved unimaginably since then and as the resort’s fabulous Zoo marks the occasion with a day of celebrations, we look back at it’s varied past and the key moments which have shaped the last 50 years.
1. 50 years of Blackpool Zoo
The zoo opened to the public on a very wet day by Johnny Morris of TV Animal Magic fame. In celebrity style he rode an elephant accompanied by the Mayor in a Rolls-Royce.
To begin with the zoo housed two Asian elephants, three White Rhinos, two giraffes, sea lions, gorillas, chimpanzees, orang-utans, lions and two giant tortoises.
Photo: National World
2. 50 years of Blackpool Zoo
The zoo offices and an education classroom are housed in the old air traffic control building with the hangars being used to house the elephants, for food storage, animal quarantine and maintenance of the site. This was how it was in 1983. Photo courtesy of Paul Francis Airfield Research Group
3. 50 years of Blackpool Zoo
The original plan for the zoo was a three-phase 100-acre-plus zoo development. Rising costs, however, meant that the zoo was not developed from the original 33 acres until 2019. The first zoo director was Cyril Grace, who was formerly the manager of Dudley Zoo. This photo shows the Sea Lion pool in the mid 1970s
4. 50 years of Blackpool Zoo
A new entrance to the zoo, different to the one today, was created in 1993. It included a larger shop which helped to increase customer spending. Steven Stanley was also appointed manager of the zoo during that year having previously managing Cricket St Thomas Zoo. Steven Leonard of BBC TV’s Vets in Practice fame opened the new entrance.
Photo: Dave Nelson