New zoo could open in Diss in time for the summer

A new zoo could be opening near a Norfolk town in time for the busy summer months, boasting rare and endangered bird and small mammal species.

The gardens at Blacksmiths Cottage Nursery in Langmere, near Diss, could soon achieve zoological status and will be formally opened to the paying public in June.

Nursery owner Ben Potterton has applied to South Norfolk Council for a licence after inspectors from the local authority warned him he would need to apply for zoo status as although the rare animals were on private land, students regularly visited on field trips to learn more about the birds and therefore the site could be deemed to be open to the public.

However, Mr Potterton, who has had the animal collections since 1998, said although he would be bringing in new animals, these would not be the larger, more aggressive animals seen in conventional zoos, such as tigers and lions, but exclusively rare birds and possibly some small mammals to fit in with the vision of a wildlife garden.

Currently, the nursery gardens have about 500 animals, including pheasants, Crane birds, Flying Steamer Ducks, owls, Malayan Black Hornbills and Philippine deer, which have been given to the nursery by zoos across Britain and countries including the Netherlands, USA and Germany to be bred and either returned to the wild or back to the zoos.

Mr Potterton planned to charge visitors 'at most �4' to visit the rare species, which are currently being paid for by money from the nursery.

He said the gardens had been used to breed the rare red squirrel to be reintroduced in Wales after numbers of the species fell drastically following the introduction of the grey squirrel from north America.

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The gardens were kept open so the species had freedom to roam, while the more shy species, such as the Little Bittern, could hide away in the bushes. The gardens will be inspected prior to the zoo licence decision and then inspected regularly if the licence is granted to ensure the animals are being looked after properly and there are no safety hazards.

Boards will be placed around the gardens giving information about the wildlife on show, so visitors will be able to wander around the site.

Mr Potterton said: 'We have endangered species, some with only 30 left in the wild, so we wanted to create a story.

'We want to have a pretty garden for people to visit.'

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