A resting butterfly
Tropical World is owned and operated by Leeds City Council’s Department of Learning and Leisure, and is a part of Roundhay Park Estate. It was originally a Victorian greenhouse that featured tropical plants. In the 1980s it opened as a tourist attraction and a registered zoo, in 2005 it received 400,000 visitors. It is covered by the Zoo Licensing Act, and was inspected only last week. As a zoo it has an education and conservation remit, and participates in rare breeds breeding programmes. It is also a member of the Federation of Zoological Gardens of Great Britain and Ireland.
We were met by Catherine Bowhill Roundhay Park’s Visitor and Retail Manager, Catherine’s team looks after all of the parks retail, customer service, and admissions functions. There is also a garden team, who maintain the gardens and parkland, and an animal team who are concerned with looking after Tropical World’s animal collection. We began the visit with some history and background information from Catherine, before walking around the facility and then meeting Catherine again for a question and answer session. What follows is some of the information that we found out about Tropical World.
A row of butterfly chrysali
Tropical World has ten members of staff most of whom are full-time and a volunteer worker. Staff are employed in a variety of roles, including the gift shop, and animal carers. The calibre of applicants for vacancies is usually high, as roles in an attraction such as this are in demand from professionals who want to work in this type of environment. Animal specialists are recruited via the BIAZA website.
Tropical World has no set marketing budget, yet it does participate in a variety of marketing activities, including promotion via the Leeds and Breeze Cards websites, which gives card holders free admission into the facility. Admission prices are normally Adults £3, Children £2, and under eight year olds free. This means that the attraction, being family orientated receives many non-paying visitors.
Tropical world is also promoted via the council website, and through leaflet drops. Typically 80,000 leaflets are produced annually, 60,000 of which are distributed via Audiences Yorkshire. The attraction also has membership of the Yorkshire Tourist Board via Leeds City Council, and is also promoted through Gateway Yorkshire. It also has tie-ins with local media such as Magic 828 who promoted the recent Roundhay Park bonfire, and Real Radio who are promoting the forthcoming ‘Totally Tropical Christmas’ that will feature a steel band, Christmas lights, and ‘Rum Shack’ (serving orange juice!).
During Summer Tropical World is open from 10:00am until 18:00, and in Winter from 10:00am until 16:00 – this is because the attraction does not have any lights in the main glass house and relies on natural light for visitors to see where they are going. The attraction has a capacity of 1,500 visitors at any one time, and during peak periods (School Holidays, Public Holidays and weekends) regularly reaches capacity levels, which can cause congestion problems. Accidents are rare, risk assessments need to be carried out wherever visitors and animals can come into contact – including ‘meet the keeper’ sessions where the zoo keepers can bring out animals for visitors to see, touch and hold.
Tropical World does not consider any of the other Leeds attractions that have animals as direct competitors, as none of them offer what Tropical World does, in Leeds the attraction sees itself as being unique, with the closest other Zoo being at Flamingo Land in North Yorkshire. Other animal attractions in Leeds include: Lotherton Hall; Harewood House; Temple Newsam; Pudsey Pets; and Meanwood Valley Urban Farm.
As a group we spent an hour looking around the facility, a highlight of the tour was Paul the Zoo keeper introducing the group to a bearded dragon, and a carpet snake. Most of the group went with a pre-conception that Tropical World would be an attraction for children, and that it probably wouldn’t appeal to them. I’m pleased to say that the general consensus was that it was it was enjoyed thoroughly, leaving positive comments in the visitor book, and no doubt a repeat visit in future.
Meet the Keeper
Many thanks to Catherine Bowhill, and Carol Fenner (Visitor Services Manager) for their valuable time and making this visit possible.