WEST Midland Safari Park is delighted after planning has been granted to build eight luxury lodges and new state-of-the-art animal enclosures.

Since the Looping Group’s requisition of the park in December 2018, the in-house Development Team has been working on a long-term investment strategy, focussing on upgrading the animal facilities, as well as improving the overall guest experience.

Plans were approved by the Wyre Forest District Council during a meeting on Tuesday, September 17, and work will begin next month, starting with brand-new housing and outdoor spaces for the Park’s African elephants and cheetahs, as well as a new ungulate house and muck clamp.

The approved planning proposal outlines the first phase of the park's new vision, upgrading the African elephant and cheetah enclosures to bring them in line with animal welfare standards.

According to the plans, the current house at Elephant Valley was built in 1997 and no longer meets the minimum animal welfare requirements.

In order to comply with modern zoo practices, the park needs to hold a minimum of four cows over the age of two in order to replicate the matriarchal social system found in the wild.

The proposed cheetah house is larger than the size recommended in current guidelines, and includes separation pens and outdoor space.

At the time of the last zoo license inspection, the park's existing cheetah house and animal management facilities were identified as needing improvement, while the current indoor space falls below the recommended size.

The application also includes plans for a new muck clamp to store and rot down animal bedding and waste, after the existing one was highlighted as an area that needs "urgent action."

As part of the plan, the park will also integrate eight exclusive, luxury lodges, which will offer guests the chance to spend a night at the park, and get up-close to the wildlife.

Head of Wildlife Angela Potter said: “The Wildlife Team is delighted that planning has been granted for the new development for our much-loved animals.

"We have been working very closely with the Development Team to ensure that the new facilities provide stimulating and enriching environments for the animals, as well as an amazing immersive experience for our guests.

“The new facilities for our African elephants have been designed to include outdoor pools, enrichment areas such as mud wallows, dust baths and multiple feeding areas, plus it gives them the opportunity for 24-hour roaming.

"The development means we will have the space to increase the numbers in our herd and will subsequently enable us to continue our important work within the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme.”

Similarly to the elephants, the cheetahs’ new habitat has been designed to be as close to their natural environment as possible and includes a large outdoor space, with pools, high vantage points, enrichment feeders and natural shelters.

In addition to the new animal facilities, integrated into the new exhibits will be eight exclusive, luxury lodges, introducing the opportunity for guests to stay overnight, giving them an up-close and personal wildlife experience like no other.

The first phase of the new development has ambitions for completion in the summer of 2020.