POPULAR attraction Crocodiles of the World recently celebrated its 10th anniversary.

Since then, there has been some sharp twists and turns, but throughout, it has remained a much-loved Oxfordshire institution.

The Brize Norton zoo is the UK’s only crocodile zoo, and is home to over 100 crocodiles, plus many other reptiles, mammals and birds.

Founder Shaun Foggett first kept reptiles when he was 17, selling his family home to fund the opening of the first centre in Crawley Mill back in 2011.

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Since then, there has been a relocation (to Brize Norton), business awards, a plethora of school visits, and even certain species becoming the first to be hatched in the UK.

More recently, the coronavirus pandemic has hit the coffers hard, with the zoo becoming increasingly reliant on donations from the public, as visitors have been unable to attend.

Despite this, the zoo has maintained its position as an important pillar of the community, putting together educational videos, in addition to crocodile-themed worksheets and quizzes, in order to help parents homeschooling their children.

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Reflecting on the 10 years, Mr Foggett said: “Our achievements over the last 10 years have far exceeded all my expectations.

“I had a vision that I wanted to help facilitate crocodile conservation and educate the public about these incredible animals.

“Over the last 10 years we’ve had around half a million visitors, including school visits, and so if we’ve sparked an interest into crocodiles, perhaps inspired croc keepers or conservationists of the future, then that’s just incredible.”

The last 12 months have without doubt been the toughest for the zoo, with it becoming increasingly reliant on public donations.

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Mr Foggett added: “It’s been a very concerning time financially and although we have suffered a lot of setbacks in the early days of the zoo, this last year has been the most challenging.

“It has wiped out almost all our reserves and setback plans, but I know we will find a way through.

“We couldn’t have survived without all the donations and support we have received and for that we will always be extremely grateful.

“We have an incredible team here at the zoo and I can’t wait to be able to celebrate our 10-year anniversary with both them, and our visitors, and am really looking forward to the future.”

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Mr Foggett got his dangerous wild animals licence from West Oxfordshire District Council in 2001.

After selling his family home to set up the necessary funding, he opened the first zoo in Crawley Mill, before moving to bigger premises at the former Foxbury Farm site in February 2014.

Crocodiles of the World is now home to 19 of the 24 crocodile species, including critically endangered ones.

To support the zoo while it is closed during lockdown, please visit: crocodilesoftheworld.co.uk/contact/make-a-donation