A POPULAR attraction in Maldon Promenade Park has become the first official zoo in the district after a successful application.

Maldon Promenade Petting Zoo previously operated under a AAL license.

But as the number of large animals grew, they began the process of getting an official zoo licence six months ago.

Directors James, 40, and Craig Williams, 41, started the petting zoo in 2015 when James became ill with cancer.

The directors are from a railway background, so they said the petting zoo “started as an accident” after they took on some rescue animals and began with council permission in a small gazebo.

Last week they were told by an inspector it was the best first inspection she had done in 25 years and they had passed.

The news comes following a devastating fire last year where 60 animals died.

The incident was down to a “freak accident” and the insurance received has helped the zoo rebuild and remember the lives lost.

Craig said: “For us and the staff who have come from local schools and colleges, it’s a massive accomplishment and we never in our wildest dreams thought it would happen.

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

“It’s given us a sense of direction, it’s opened more doors for us to grow and the title of owning the zoo has been a great morale lift.

“Seeing it go from a three-by-three gazebo to a whole zoo is incredible.”

He added: “We are hoping to acquire more land to double the size of the zoo, which will give us more room for the species at the zoo.”

The pair are in the process of installing a miniature railway on the grounds and are taking on another building which they are planning to use as a gift shop.

The animals are also well into their breeding period with baby reindeer expected any day now, four new meerkats born last week and their African grey parrots have begun breeding.

Craig said: “For the animals that live with us it’s almost like a second chance, James got a second chance and so did they.

“We hope to continue to rehome and continue doing the great work we do.”

They will also be opening new jobs for zookeepers on site soon.