History of Battersea Park Children’s Zoo
Until the middle of the 19th century, Battersea Park consisted of marshland and fields where carrots, asparagus and lavender were grown. The area was opened as a public park in 1858 and was used for sporting activities. In 1951 the park was transformed into a pleasure garden as part of the Festival of Britain celebrations, and the forerunner of Battersea Park Children’s Zoo was born.
When the much-loved zoo, formerly run by Wandsworth Council, was threatened with closure in 2003, the Heap family stepped in and saved it. Carol, Roger and Ed Heap have a passion for animals and valuable experience of running two other wildlife parks - the Chestnut Centre Conservation and Wildlife Park in Derbyshire and the New Forest Wildlife Park in Hampshire.
Taking over Battersea Park Children’s Zoo gave them a chance to create a zoo exactly the way they wanted it - turning it into an opportunity for youngsters to enjoy, respect and learn about the animals that we share our planet with.
The Heap Family
Carol and Roger Heap have always been deeply committed to wildlife education and conservation, though they didn’t originally intend to shape their lives around animals.
Roger, formerly an architect, and Carol, a physiotherapist, first started volunteering at an otter conservation trust in the 1970s. They ended up looking after rescued otters in their back garden in Derbyshire, which had a stream. Gradually their menagerie grew and the Chestnut Centre was born.
The family were invited to take over the running of the two other parks later on, as their reputation grew. Along with their son Ed, they now devote their time to looking after the three wildlife centres, helping with animal rescue and rehabilitation and taking part in international captive breeding programmes for endangered species, such as the giant otter, European bison, Eurasian otter, Harvest Mouse, European polecat, Scottish wildcat etc. Other members of the Heap family are animal mad too and have carried on in the family tradition. Younger son Ed is General Manager to the three centres, Ed’s wife Clare is the resident vet and elder son Charlie has achieved a lifelong ambition by opening a birds of prey centre in Helmsley, Yorkshire. Find out more at http://www.icbp-duncombe.org/
Fiona Vella - Education and Events Manager
Time flies when you’re having fun! Fiona has worked at the Zoo for twelve years and really enjoys working with children and animals. Each day is different, which keeps her job interesting and varied.
Fiona has a soft spot for the capuchin monkeys. “They are so intelligent and seem to recognise and welcome me with raised eyebrows when I come past with groups of school children.”
Click on one of our Zoo Keepers to read a mini interview!
- Zoo Keeper