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A tiger walking through the brush

What happened to the Isle of wight zoo?

The Isle of Wight Zoo still exists, but with a new name and a new mission…

In 2021 The Isle of Wight Zoo became The Wildheart Animal Sanctuary, a haven for big cats, reptiles, monkeys, lemurs and small mammals rescued from around the world. 

Two tigers playing in the water
Two tigers
Leaping Lynx Wildheart Animal Sanctuary

IOW ZOO History

Many remember or have heard tales of tigers walking along the beach at Sandown, taken across the road by zoo owners Jack and Judith Corney so the impressive big cats could stretch their legs and swim. 

A family run attraction, the Corney’s purchased the run-down zoo in the late 70s, Jack relocating his young family to make his zoo keeping dream a reality. The Isle of Wight Zoo became synonymous with tigers and lions, as well as playing home to other exotic animals and reptiles. Together the family hand reared many cubs, monkeys, and lemurs born at the zoo, with the couple’s daughter Charlotte becoming a Director at just 26 years old. 

In 2003 Jack sadly passed away, with Charlotte taking full charge of the business. Founding her own animal charity in 2016, The Wildheart Trust, the charity later acquired The Isle of Wight Zoo – becoming The Wildheart Animal Sanctuary in 2021. 

Over the years, the Sandown zoo has morphed into to a modern-day animal sanctuary, offering a safe haven for endangered species destined for the pet trade, ex-circus big cats and surplus zoo stock. The sanctuary no longer runs any form breeding programme, instead providing a much-needed home to rescue animals from around the world. 

Today Wildheart is a living hub for animal welfare and conservation initiatives, sharing the centre with visitors and hopefully educating them about the plight of animals and their habitats globally. At the core of both the Sanctuary and Trust is the desire to meaningfully impact the health of the natural world, while actively improving well-being and care of animals in human care.


As a visitor today, you’ll encounter an exciting menagerie of exotic and endangered species living right here on the Isle of Wight. A truly unique experience for animal lovers, at The Wildheart Animal Sanctuary you’ll get to see servals, tigers, meerkats, wallabies, raccoons, porcupines, monkeys, lions, lemurs, lynx, farm animals and a host of snakes, lizards, amphibians, and fish all inside the walls of an old fort and just a stone’s throw from Yaverland Beach. 

For the brave at heart, the sanctuary offers ‘Lion and Tiger feeding’, as well as a ‘Big Cat Experience’ where you’ll get to see where the big cats live, learn about their personalities and rescue stories as well as feeding them their morning snack! You can also enrol to be a ‘Carer for the Day’, helping to look after the wallabies, farm animals, primates, reptiles and big cats – letting them out into their enclosures and assisting with daily duties. 

The Wildheart Animal Sanctuary is open year-round, 7 days a week from 10am until 4pm in the winter, and until 5pm in the summer. On site you’ll find a great café, children’s play area and picnic area alongside the animal enclosures. See the park map

Book Red Funnel ferry travel and Wildheart Animal Sanctuary tickets together and save 15% on your admission. Pay just £35.25 for a family of four vs £47.00 on the gate and just £10.50 per adult vs £14.00 on the gate booking via Red Funnel – ferry travel must be purchased with admission tickets. Parking onsite costs £3 for the day.  Buy your tickets here


Sandown is a popular tourist destination, with miles of golden sandy beaches stretching from Yaverland to Shanklin. You’ll find an abundance of places to grab an ice cream along the Esplanade, as well as pubs and cafes to grab a bite. 

Other things to do in Sandown include a visit to Sandham Gardens for Go-Karting, Sky Nets and Crazy Golf and a visit to Sandown Pier. Built in 1876, Sandown Pier offers traditional seaside amusements and rides overlooking the beach, a great place to visit on a rainy day. 

Nearby animal attractions include Amazon World in Newchurch and The Isle of Wight Donkey Sanctuary in Wroxall. Further afield, you’ll find Monkey Haven, Butterly World, Haven Falconry and The Island Riding Centre

Coming on holiday? Why not book travel, accommodation and attraction tickets direct with Red Funnel to save 25% on ferry fares and benefit from discounted attraction admission – including the Wildheart Animal Sanctuary