Step back in time to when Southport had its own zoo

Southport Zoo assistant keeper Jamie Tapper with tortoises Mike (left) and Georgina
-Credit: (Image: southport visiter)

Southport was once home to a zoo that housed over 1,000 animals until it shut down.

The zoo was situated on Marine Drive, where Pleasureland is currently located, and was owned by married couple Carol and Douglas Petrie. It boasted 154 species of wild animals and birds - but it also drew criticism and protests from animal rights activists.

Eventually home to African lions, chimps, gibbons, parrots and reptiles, it began as a modest one-acre "pet corner" in 1953. Established by Frank and Helena Farrar with the vision of creating a small animal haven, the couple expanded their collection over the following decade to include an array of birds and animals, even implementing a breeding programme.

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Southport Zoo's footprint grew from its initial acre on the promenade to encompass six acres. Among its notable inhabitants were Chiefy, a leopard who gained fame by appearing in several 1950s films, and Rajah the lion, who also took to the silver screen in various roles.

The Petries took over the zoo's management in 1967, overseeing it for many years until its closure.

In 2002, the Captive Animals Protection Society (CAPS) named Southport as one of Britain's worst zoos and at one stage, it was picketed every weekend by members of two animal welfare groups demanding its closure.

Owners Carol and Douglas Petrie strongly refuted any allegations of ill-treatment towards their animals.

In 2004, Sefton Council refused to renew the zoo's lease, and it was forced to close. All the zoo's animals were rehoused across the country, with most going to smaller zoos, while larger animals were moved to Cumbria.

The site was eventually taken over by Pleasureland to expand the theme park. Following its closure, the former zoo site was transformed into a paintball venue before being reimagined and reopened in 2010 as Battlefield Live Southport.

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