Tilgate Nature Centre

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Tilgate Nature Centre
Tilgate Park - geograph.org.uk - 402751.jpg
Duck sanctuary at Titmus Lake, Tilgate
Tilgate Nature Centre
51°05′37″N0°11′00″W / 51.0935556°N 0.183262°W / 51.0935556; -0.183262
Date opened1966
LocationTilgate Park, Tilgate Drive, Crawley, West Sussex, England
Major exhibits African, American, Australasian, Madagascan, European, and Domestic Zone, "Animal Adoptions", "Meet the Meerkats", "Junior Keeper for a Day"
Website Tilgate Nature Centre Website

Tilgate Nature Centre is a small BIAZA-accredited zoo located within Tilgate Park in Tilgate Forest, South-East Crawley, West Sussex, England. The nature centre holds 144 different animal species (in 2021), and are actively involved in breeding programmes to preserve many threatened wild species from extinction.


Ring-Tailed Lemur Ring-Tailed Lemur (17151279737).jpg
Ring-Tailed Lemur
Meet the Meerkats Stokstaartje.jpg
Meet the Meerkats


Tilgate Nature Centre was formed in 1966 by Crawley Borough Council [1] to breed ducklings for introduction into the three lakes at Tilgate, namely Campbells, Silt and Titmus. [2] The zoo's focus changed over the years, and it now houses an impressive animal collection including reindeer, owls, raccoon dogs, parrots, mongooses, otters, snakes, tarantulas, lizards and various invertebrates. Tilgate Nature Centre is actively involved in breeding programmes for threatened species such as the Northern bald ibis, and has also been involved in re-introduction programmes; most notably the fen raft spider (Dolomedes plantarius) from the UK. [2]

Alpacas Waterloo Park Llamas Alpacas 2019.jpg


There are 144 different animal species on view (2021), [3] and the centre is open to the paying public, with attractions such as public talks, feeds and presentations, "Animal Adoptions", "Meet the Meerkats", "Junior Keeper for a Day", [4] and "Tapir Time" experiences. They also offer educational visits for schools and animal-themed birthday parties for wildlife-loving youngsters. [2]

The nature centre is split into geographical zones, before 2017 this included African zone, which included dwarf crocodile, grey hornbill, naked mole-rat, pancake tortoise, African clawed frog, Malawi cichlid. The European and Domestic Zone included reindeer, barn owl, and many endangered farm animals. In April 2016, visitors witnessed the opening of the new Australasian Zone [2] which includes species such as kangaroo, Wallaby, potoroo, emu, galah cockatoo, and kookaburra. [2]

In Easter 2017, the Madagascan Zone opened, which includes serval, ring tailed lemur and a variety of reptiles. [5]

In April 2018, the Americas Zone opened, featuring Brazilian tapir, capybara, macaw, greater rhea, marabou stork, and Jamaican boa. [6]


Many endangered species are kept at Tilgate Nature Centre, which has taken on an important role in conservation, protecting endangered species from extinction due to rapid changes affecting their natural habitats. Tilgate Nature Centre has become nationally important for maintaining breeding groups of these animals to preserve a variety of endangered wild species. Critically endangered animals include Northern bald ibis, Utila spiny-tailed iguana, Laysan duck and swift parakeet. [2]

Chattering lory Chattering Lory (Lorius garrulus)4.jpg
Chattering lory
Raccoon Dogs from East Asia Nyctereutes procyonoides 4 (Piotr Kuczynski).jpg
Raccoon Dogs from East Asia


In 2020, Tilgate Nature Centre received a Gold Star Award (Switch To A Reusable) for Sustainability and Zoostainability, from the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA). [7]

In 2021, a ranking of zoos in the United Kingdom by Parkdean Resorts placed Tilgate Nature Centre in first place. [3]

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  1. "Tilgate Forest". Local Nature Reserves. Natural England. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 26 July 2013.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Tilgate Park Nature centre". Crawley Borough Council. 2015. Archived from the original on 19 March 2016.
  3. 1 2 Dunford, Mark (16 June 2021). "West Sussex nature centre ranked as the UK's top zoo, according to new survey". Chichester Observer . JPIMedia. Archived from the original on 16 June 2021.
  4. "Cute meerkat pups on display at Tilgate Park Nature Centre in Crawley". The Argus. 30 May 2013. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013.
  5. "Madagascar comes to Tilgate Nature Centre!". crawleynews24.co.uk. 28 March 2017. Archived from the original on 26 September 2020.
  6. "Incredible park just outside London". mylondon.news. 15 September 2019. Archived from the original on 6 December 2019.
  7. "BIAZA Annual Awards 2020 winners announced". biaza.org.uk. 13 September 2020. Archived from the original on 25 November 2020.