|The RSCC is permanently closed to the public since autumn 2015, but expected to reopen as Sandwich Wildlife Park in 2018|
The Rare Species Conservation Centre (RSCC) was established in 2006 by The Rare Species Conservation Trust, with Todd Dalton as its driving force, primarily as a conservation centre. In May 2007 this trust was officially registered as a UK charity with the aim to operate the RSCC as a breeding centre for rare species open to the public for education purposes. In addition the charity should provide a refuge for rescued animals and in situ conservation projects for endangered rare species.
So, from the beginning the intention was to educate visitors and create awareness of the plight of some of the world’s lesser-known rare and endangered animal species, but entertainment or recreation was not set as a task.
The RSCC was created on the same grounds where formerly a small primate centre called The Monkey Rainforest was housed. This small zoo had a good track record regarding primate breeding with 45% of the zoo’s animal population bred on the premises. They had primates and birds on display from South America such as marmosets, tamarins and squirrel monkeys, and lemurs from Madagascar. Both the large water garden centre and pet shop that were adjacent to the zoo still exists.
The RSCC started in 2006 on 0.61 hectare as a small breeding centre dedicated to the care, breeding and conservation of felids, other small carnivores and nocturnal prosimians. It developed and expanded into a small (0.81 ha) but mature zoological facility that maintained various species seldom seen elsewhere in captivity. They struggled for a few years to keep the zoo open to the public year round, but finally at the end of September 2010 they decided they could no longer be open daily to the public, and would only open when they could manage – to be announced on their website. They renovated and rebuilt many indoor enclosures (jaguarundi, tayra, lesser grison, sand cat and rusty-spotted cats) and reopened after some delay in April 2011. The total makeover of the indoor area was greatly appreciated by the animals as well as the visitors. Nevertheless they had to close to the public again at the end of summer 2011. So far the work is carried on, but currently RSCC is closed to the public although it was open some days in October 2012. These days had to be booked online and were announced on their facebook page.
But Todd Dalton proved to be a man of perseverance. New species arrived, such as tarsiers, cuscus and even Malayan tigers, and the rumours of a re-opening were supported by the announcement of a brand new website in 2014. Indeed, the RSCC re-opened with still a rather unique collection of rare predators on display, such as boky-boky and Europe’s only breeding pair of fanalokas. The adjacent garden centre of about 3.5 ha had been acquired and was under development – with the 0.5 ha Malayan tiger exhibit already completed. Unfortunately, in summer 2015 the news came through that the RSCC would be sold or closed. It turned out to be the latter, in 31 August 2015 due to lack of funds. This time permanently, as announced on their facebook page that is still alive. They will not reopen but they still continue with a reduced species breeding programme and they will do private tours. Private event bookings and open days are scheduled for later on in future, at least they hope.
As of 9 January 2017 the former RSCC site has been taken over by the nearby Wingham Wildlife Park. Hence, the newly acquired land will be turned into a sister centre called Sandwich Wildlife Park. An exact date for the grand opening was not given, other than it would be in 2018.
The site at Sandwich is expected to be home to clouded leopards, maned wolves, ring-tailed lemurs and, and will provide accommodation for overnight visitors.
A lot of clearing work was necessary, which included removing and trimming back much of the bamboo growth that happened due to lack of gardening in the previous two years. Additional grounds work was needed, and major re-work of the old bear enclosure to drastically increase its size. Moreover, they are re-designing and putting up new signage in the park, including educational signs at the animal enclosures. The official opening will be announced on the new website.
(Source: Wikipedia; website Open Charities; The IZES Guide to British Zoos & Aquariums by Tim Brown; ZOO grapevine winter 2014⁄15 and summer 2015; former website The Monkey Rainforest; RSCC facebook page; KentOnline news, 12.01.2017, 28.04.2018)