The Alameda Wildlife Conservation Park (AWCP) began in 1994 as a collection of exotic animals confiscated by Gibraltar Customs. These animals were discovered on passing ships, thought to be bound for animal testing units in Europe or for the illegal pet trade. In the following years, many more exotic animals arrived, most were unwanted pets or animals in need of relocation from other zoos. Volunteers and European and Gibraltar Government funding ensured that the animals were adequately housed in a small area of the Gibraltar Botanic Gardens, on the site of the old min-golf course.
In 2003 the Wildlife Park was opened to the public. Since then the park and its collection have grown to include endangered species such as the cotton-topped tamarin, ring-tailed lemur and Asian short-clawed otters. These are either on loan from UK zoos and are part of international breeding programmes which aim to protect the future of these species.
Over the last couple of years, the park has been re-developed into a modern zoological collection and centre for conservation education. The AWCP is now an accredited member of the British & Irish association of Zoos and Aquaria (BIAZA). In 2013 the park received funding from The Parasol Foundation and Gibraltar Government to renovate most of the area and animal exhibits. The area was re-themed using rock-work to create a more natural and immersive experience for animals and visitors alike.
Aside from caring for the 160 animals at the zoo, the team at the AWCP also work with international conservation projects to help conserve these species and their habitats in the wild, raising funds and awareness for conservation around the world. Each entry ticket now includes a £1 donation towards a conservation charity that the AWCP supports. Visitors to the park can choose which charity to support with their ‘Wild Conservation Coin’.
Conservation education is another vital role for the AWCP. Every year, the majority of Gibraltar’s school children visit the Wildlife Park to learn about endangered species and conservation as well as enhancing topics on their science curriculum. Outdoor learning is proven to be an important aspect of learning, the AWCP’s immersive exhibits provide an opportunity for local school children to get ‘back-to-nature’. With public campaigns such as the ‘Habits for Habitats’ and ‘Conscious Eating’ campaigns, the AWCP hopes to bring awareness of how each individual can help to make a difference and help to conserve and protect wild habitats and species.