Pandas to pythons: A look back at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens over time

Rose Larter with a tiger at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens, 4th April 1996. Photo: Archant Library

Rose Larter with a tiger at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens, April 4, 1996. - Credit: Archant Library

Norfolk families have been getting up close and personal with exotic creatures for decades. 

Since opening in 1979 Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens has been home to the likes of tigers, crocodiles and monkeys.

The site was first opened by Ken Sims after he returned from Malaya where he had been a rubber planter, poisonous snake farmer and a crocodile keeper. 

Mr Sims had previously supplied zoos in Europe and America with rare species and spent time at the National Zoo of Malaysia. 

2of2 Thrigby Hall owner, Ken Simms (left) and Reptile Keeper Andy Whittred checking that the

Thrigby Hall owner, Ken Simms (left) and reptile keeper Andy Whittred checking that the female saltwater crocodile at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Park. - Credit: Archant 2001

And it was through his work that he realised how progressive zoos could play a positive role in helping save species from extinction and led to the design of the wildlife gardens, near the village of Filby. 

Generations of families have since been able to enjoy its beautiful grounds as well as close encounters with all of its animals. 

Although the gardens have changed over the years, the zoos care for its inhabitants and passion for conservation work has remained the same. 

Iggy the Alligator on holiday with her owner at Thrigby Wildlife Gardens - children taking Iggy for

Iggy the alligator at Thrigby Wildlife Gardens, August 1981. - Credit: Archant Library

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Today it is home to tigers, snow leopards, red pandas, meerkats, gibbons, otters, alligators, crocodiles, reptiles and birds. 

Scott Bird started working at Thrigby in 1998 and was mentored by Mr Sims before took over the title of zoo director. 

He said: “I started work at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens shortly after graduating from DeMonfort University Lincoln after studying my degree in Equine Science in the summer of 1998.

"The job was only supposed to be for a couple of months as a pair of hands building their new leopard enclosure.  

Tigers at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens, 4th February 1998. Photo: Archant Library

Tigers at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens, February 4, 1998. - Credit: Archant Library

“Over the years I was mentored by Ken learning about the animals of the park their needs and requirements and also how to deal with the public facing side of the business.   

“I have always enjoyed my role at Thrigby as no two days are ever the same. 

He added: “When Ken retired from the day-to-day running of the park in 2015, I took over the role of zoo director.   

Monkeys at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens, 8th August 1995. Photo: Archant Library

Monkeys at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens, August 8, 1995. - Credit: Archant Library

“This role has been challenged by the global pandemic but we are optimistic and looking to the future. We have been humbled by the support this past year. 

“I am excited for the future of and plans are underway for the swamp house renovations and redesign of the Tiger enclosure." 

Tiger cubs at Thrigby Hall, 13 October 1994. Photo: Archant Library

Tiger cubs at Thrigby Hall, 13 October 1994. - Credit: Archant Library

(1of2) Head Reptile Keeper Andy Whittred with the Burmese Python at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens.

Head reptile keeper Andy Whittred with the Burmese Python at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens. - Credit: Archant Library

(1of1) Karen Chapman and Ken Simms from Thrigby hall wildlife gardens with the giant Burmese python.

Karen Chapman and Ken Simms from Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens with the giant Burmese python. - Credit: Archant Library

Snow leopard at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens, 4th January 1993. Photo: Archant Library

Snow leopard at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens, January 4, 1993. - Credit: Archant Library

Tigers at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens, 4th February 1998. Photo: Archant Library

Tigers at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens, February 4, 1998. - Credit: Archant Library

Ken Sims who founded Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens some 35 years ago and was made one of just 25 hon

A Lar Gibbon with its baby at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens in 2014. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2014

Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens has a new Amur leopard called Skodje.Picture: James Bass

Amur leopard called Skodje pictured at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens in 2015. - Credit: James Bass/Archant

Ken Sims (centre) with three long serving members of staff who are joining Ken and his wife Beryl as

Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens in 2015. Pictured is Ken Sims (centre) with three long serving members of staff. Scott Bird is Zoo Director, Carol Payne is responsible for the shop and tearooms and Lynda Barnes is Head Keeper.  - Credit: Archant

Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens.Gibbon.April 2015Picture: James Bass

A Gibbon at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens. Pictured in 2015. - Credit: Archant

Thrigby Hall wildlife Gardensanimal auditkeeper sophie hodds with Lar GibbonsPhoto: Jerry Daws

Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens keeper Sophie Hodds with Lar Gibbons. Pictured in 2010. - Credit: Archant

A pair of White Storks which are nesting on the ground close to the lake. A different pair have buil

Ken Sims, director of Thrigby Hall. Pictured in 2014. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2014

Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens, Filby, Great Yarmouth.Ken Sims next to the Sumatran Tiger enclosure

Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens, Filby, Great Yarmouth. Ken Sims next to the Sumatran Tiger enclosure. - Credit: Archant

3/3 The Sumatran Tiger takes thins easy in the Hot weather at Thrigby wildlife gardens.

The Sumatran Tiger at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press Archant

1/1 Pic for Weeklies 'GO !' supplement..The new treetop walk at Thrigby wildlife gardens.

The treetop walk at Thrigby wildlife gardens. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press Archant

1/3 The new treetop walk at Thrigby wildlife gardens.Redhead story.

The treetop walk at Thrigby wildlife gardens. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press Archant

Parents of the baby red panda at Thrigby Wildlife Park, near Yarmouth. The three-month-old cub was b

Red Pandas at Thrigby Wildlife Park, near Yarmouth. Pictured in 2003. - Credit: Archant

Matthew Rafe from Thurston Air Cadets in Suffolk spent at day in the tank of a Burmese Python at Thi

Matthew Rafe from Thurston Air Cadets in Suffolk spent at day in the tank of a Burmese Python at Thirgby Hall Wildlife Park in Norfolk. Pictured in 2003. - Credit: Archant

The 7-week-old un-named Leopard Cub at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens in Thrigby, Norfolk.Photo:

Leopard cub at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens in Thrigby, Norfolk. Pictured in 2003. - Credit: Archant

Indigo a Amur Leopard cub which gave birth to a cub 7-weeks-ago at Thrigby Wildlife Gardens in Norf

Amur Leopard at Thrigby Wildlife Gardens. Pictured in 2003. - Credit: Archant

Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens. A siamang shows off to visitors at Thrigby.Picture: Bill DarnellC

A siamang shows off to visitors at Thrigby. Pictured in 2003. - Credit: Bill Darnell/Archant

Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens. Entrance sign.Picture: Bill DarnellCopy: Abigail SaltmarshFor:

Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens. - Credit: Bill Darnell/Archant

Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens. Children in one of the play areas.Picture: Bill DarnellCopy: Abig

Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens. Pictured in 2003. - Credit: Bill Darnell/Archant

LOUIS THE ALLIGATOR (WELL A STAND IN REALLY) RELAXING IN MORE SPACIOUS SURROUNDINGS AT THRIGBY HALL

Louis the alligator at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens.  - Credit: Archant

Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens. Walkway through the water.Picture: Bill DarnellCopy: Abigail Sal

Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens. Walkway through the water. Pictured in 2003. - Credit: Bill Darnell/Archant

Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens. High up on one of the walks.Picture: Bill DarnellCopy: Abigail Sa

Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens. High up on one of the walks. Pictured in 2003. - Credit: Bill Darnell/Archant

1of2 One of four Saltwater Crocodiles who has been electronicaly tagged by injecting them wit

Saltwater crocodile at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Park.  - Credit: Archant


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