At the Chestnut Centre we’re passionate about wildlife and conservation. It was a love of animals and concern for endangered species that first got us started and we want our visitors to share our commitment to conservation too.

Many of our animals, such as the giant otter, are on the IUCN endangered species Red List and we’re doing our best to help breed and conserve them for the future.

We were the first park in the UK to send a captive-bred giant otter to an international breeding programme abroad. Katuma, a young giant otter born at the Chestnut Centre, was sent to Emperor Valley Zoo in Port of Spain, Trinidad in 2013 to meet his specially chosen mate, Suzie. Suzie and Katuma are getting along well and it’s hoped the pair will soon breed.

At the Chestnut Centre we also work closely with all the regulatory authorities to make sure our animals receive the best care. Some of our animals may also be included in international captive breeding programmes in the future. These programmes are strictly controlled to ensure good breeding stocks are available for species under threat.

Our other conservation projects include:

  • The rehabilitation of injured and orphaned native species, such as otters, owls, and deer
  • A Scottish wildcat captive breeding programme
  • A harvest mouse captive breeding programme
  • A pine marten captive breeding programme and studbook management
  • A European polecat captive breeding programme
  • Supporting Diane McTurk’s giant otter rehabilitation programme at Karanambu Ranch, Rupununi, Guyana
  • A Eurasian otter captive breeding programme
  • Donations to Nick Marx to help with his important rescue work at the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre in Cambodia, including the hairy-nosed otter

Rescue work

Behind the scenes we also work closely with the RSPCA, vets, the police and other organisations to help rescue injured and abandoned wild animals and bring them back to good health.

We have extensive expertise in working with Eurasian otters and so much of our rescue work involves orphaned and abandoned otter cubs that have been separated from their parents due to swollen rivers, accidents or other events.

Recently we rescued seven cubs within a three-week period alone due to heavy winter rainfall. The cubs stay with us at our New Forest Wildlife Park until they are 15 to 18 months old, and are kept away from human contact as much as possible so they can hopefully be returned to the wild.

This work is not subsidised and costs us around £3000 in food and care for each animal. So by visiting our three wildlife parks, our supporters are helping us to carry out this vital conservation and rescue work.

Please note

We can only take in rescued otters, owls, birds of prey and deer, since we have the knowledge and expertise to deal with these species. Other species should be taken to the RSPCA or other specialist centres.