New Norfolk safari park with ‘extraordinary’ animals set to open soon

PUBLISHED: 16:42 26 July 2020 | UPDATED: 16:24 28 July 2020

Edward Pope with some of the water buffalo he has bred at Watlington, near King's Lynn Picture: Ian Burt

Edward Pope with some of the water buffalo he has bred at Watlington, near King's Lynn Picture: Ian Burt

A new safari park where people will be able to see “extraordinary” animals and birds is set to open in west Norfolk.

Farmer Edward Pope is preparing to welcome the first visitors for guided tours at Watatunga - a 170-acre wildlife reserve he has created near King’s Lynn.

Mr Pope has so far declined interview requests for his plans for the reserve, beside the A10 at Watlington.

But a website has now gone live, which says: “Watatunga is a pioneering conservation site for ungulates – deer and antelope – on 170 acres of West Norfolk meadow, lake and woodland.

“We provide a natural habitat for over 24 ungulate species, water buffalo, Great Bustard and over 70 duck species as well as many native birds, animal and plants.

Water Buffalo are roaming the meadows of West Norfolk, a herd developed by farmer Edward Pope. Picture: Ian BurtWater Buffalo are roaming the meadows of West Norfolk, a herd developed by farmer Edward Pope. Picture: Ian Burt

“Protecting the world’s last populations of the rarest deer and antelope is our first mission and primary goal.

“Sharing the rewards of our work with the public in order to inspire conservationists young and old comes a close second.”

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No opening date has been announced for the attraction. But supporter Andrew Waddison tweeted: “Coming soon....... Another Norfolk conservation story, born in Africa.”

Visitors will be offered tours of the site in a fleet of electric buggies.

Luxury accommodation will be available for wildlife breaks.

Conservationist Mr Pope has been keeping water buffalo, rare deer and antelope on former gravel workings and farmland.

He was given planning permission to convert the site 18 months ago, after telling councillors: “My passion is conservation and endangered species, both in the UK and around the world.”

He said if given the go-ahead, the park would visitors to see “extraordinary animals” close-up.

They would range from great bustards, flamingos, to wildebeest, ibex, markhor and water buffalo.

Bustards, once our largest birds were hunted to extinction in the 19th Century. The last was shot near Sleaford, around 50 miles from Watlington, in 1832.

A reintroduction programme on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire was launched in 2004 in a bid to establish a sustainable breeding population of the birds, which can grow to 1m tall and weigh more than 10kg.


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