we are a Micro Zoo specialising in reptiles, Amphibians, Invertebrates and Providing Sanctuary for Terrapins
Our Collection comprises 33 exhibits of different animals spread across four themed rooms in a victorian fort!
Take your time to explore our desert, rainforest and nocturnal rooms alongside our turtle temple terrapin sanctuary
The Isle of Wight Reptilarium is a small owner operated "Micro" Zoo based within Fort Victoria Country Park on the Isle of Wight. It was created in 2017 to house a terrapin sanctuary for protecting unwanted or abandoned pet Terrapins that were under immediate threat of euthanasia under a new piece of EU Legislation!
The owner Louise Hartley has had a lifelong passion for Herpetoculture (Reptiles and Amphibians) Having kept and bred many species as a keen hobbyist this passion led her to open a successful Exotic Pet shop here on the Island in 2007 but the dream was to always own a zoo as she usually found herself keeping more of the animals than selling them!
The building in which the reptilarium is located is set within the historic remains of Fort Victoria a grade 2 listed building built in 1855, the brick arches or "casemates" that the zoo is built within originally were used to house cannons for the protection of the coast from french invasion!.
In the early 1980s this section of the fort was converted into a Marine Aquarium and was ran successfully as a tourist attraction and education resource right up until 2015 after 31 years of operation the owners decided to retire, the livestock was rehomed and the aquariums removed.
It was at this point Louise and her partner decided to approach the building owners the Isle of Wight council with a view to taking on a new lease for the building as it already had permission for use as a Zoo and was designed for housing animals in enclosures not too dissimilar to reptiles it was the perfect location to house a Reptilarium and Terrapin sanctuary.
A business plan was put together and presented to the council, if their application was successful it would give them a year in which to renovate the building, install new enclosures, pass licensing checks and get ready for Easter Opening. Sadly the proposal was declined the council decided to select a different tenant so the idea was shelved.
For unknown reasons the chosen tenant never developed the site and the building lay empty until we received an unexpected call in December 2016 asking if we were still interested in using the building as a zoo as the chosen tenant had pulled out! Of course we were! but to have a chance of being a viable entity we would need to be open in time for Easter being a seasonal tourist island if we didn't hit this deadline we would be in the financial wilderness until the next big holiday which is always the summer break. So we said yes! started fundraising and building a zoo!
With three months to renovate the building, install new enclosures and everything else that goes into opening a zoo we enlisted the help of friends, volunteers and work experience students from the Animal care department at the Isle of Wight College we managed to complete works just in time for March 2017. At this point we were still unlicensed so under the law we were only allowed to open for 10 days to the public before having to close again. So we opened to a great success in Easter 2017 and then soon after were able to re-open once our zoo licence dispensation paperwork and inspections had been completed.
our mission was to create a sanctuary for the unwanted pet terrapin problem that we became all too aware of from running a pet shop, as shop owners we were always mindfull to never sell the species of terrapin that became too large to live happily in pet conditions so we had a blanket ban on selling them however as our reputation grew we found ourselves increasingly taking in unwanted terrapins to live in our pond at home. The situation became a bit more urgent when the new EU invasive species legislation came in making it illegal to sell or rehome them. If an owner could no longer keep their pet terrapin then they were either to have it euthanised or donate it to a sanctuary, problem being at the time there were no official terrapin sanctuaries so it was great for us to be the first licensed Terrapin sanctuary of its kind but as anticipated we did hit our maximum capacity within a few months of opening.
In 2020 the Reptilarium successfully applied and received its full zoo operators licence, this means we are now in a position to be able to work collaboratively with more conservation sensitive species in the future should it be necessary as well as housing a more diverse collection of animals. We also received our licence to hold invasive species namely the terrapins in our sanctuary.
Since opening the Reptilarium has gone from strength to strength, we decided to close the pet shop we ran in 2019 to concentrate fully on the success of the Reptilarium - Little did we know the corona virus pandemic was lurking around the corner which saw us closed for most of the year!