The popular postcard as a sovereign from the Causeway Safari ParkThe popular postcard as a sovereign from the Causeway Safari Park
The popular postcard as a sovereign from the Causeway Safari Park

Did you ever visit Causeway Safari Park NI? Then you could be part of a nostalgic exhibition

20 pictures: Causeway Coast and Glens Museum Services looks for more old photos, stories, videos and memorabilia from visitors and workers who remember the ‘safari park days’

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Did you ever visit the Causeway Coast Safari Park at Benvarden, just outside Ballymoney? If so, then you could be part of a nostalgic exhibition.

Causeway Coast and Glens Museum Services is looking for old photos, stories, videos and memorabilia from the famous Northern Ireland ‘zoo’ as part of a new display.

Opened in May 1970 by local couple Pat and Louise Stephenson, the safari park was a ‘roaring’ success attracting hundreds of visitors every year.

One of the biggest tourist attractions on the Causeway Coast at the time, it showcased exotic and wild animals from elephants, lions and tigers to chimpanzees, leopards and bears. It also offered tourists a ‘photo booth’ with a lion cub and a free flight aviary.

As well as animals, the park housed other family attractions including slides, rides and trains. It was also a wildlife reserve and an important breeding ground for endangered animals.

However in 1997 the Safari Park closed and the premises became what is now Benvarden Animal Rescue Kennels.

To remember these safari park days, the local Museum Services is appealing for visitors and workers to donate their memories which will feature in an exhibition in Ballymoney Museum this August.

Appealing for help on social media, Jamie Austin, Museum Officer, posted: “Developed in 1970 by Pat Stephenson, visitors to the park had the unique experience of travelling in their own cars and buses into the main reserve where lions, tigers and baboons were kept. Many visitors report of how their tyres were slashed by the lions and wipers, number plates and wing mirrors pulled off by the baboons!

"But these were not the only animals visitors could see at the park. Reported at the time of its brief closure in 1986, the park had 34 lions, six tigers, three chimps, 22 monkeys, two leopards, two bears, zebras, camels, llamas, ponies and donkeys.

"As well as the animals, the park had many other attractions for all the family. There was the American superslide, the moonwalk, kiddy rides, bumper cars, trains, the free flight aviary, café and ice cream parlour. There was also the Curio shop where you could get your photo taken with a lion cub by polaroid camera and have it made into a badge.

"In 1997 the Safari Park closed and the premises became what is now Benvarden Animal Rescue Kennels. To remember these Safari Park days, we are working on our Causeway safari park exhibition coming to Ballymoney Museum this August and are looking for your help!

“If you have any photographs, souvenirs, stories or even footage from your time visiting or indeed working at the Safari Park, Museum Services would love to hear from you.

"We have been delighted by the response to our request for support with this exhibition so far and would like to thank everyone that has sent us their photographs and shared their stories of their time at the park. It has been wonderful to see how the photographs have brought back memories for those who both worked there and visited. If anyone would like to share their memories or send us a story we would love to use those also.”

To get in touch with the museum service visit their Facebook page, email [email protected] or call 028 276 60230.

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