New primate domes at The Wildheart Sanctuary

The new enclosure

The Wildheart Trust has recently opened the first-of-its-kind primate facility at The Wildheart Sanctuary in Sandown.

The sanctuary hosted a networking event on Wednesday, May 25, for members of the Isle of Wight Chamber of Commerce, giving them a tour of the new facility and the opportunity to be the first to see the new primate domes in action. They were able to walk through the domes and be the first to experience meeting the primates up close in person.

The new facility will house many different species that the trust is aiming to rescue over the next few years. As regulations on keeping primates tighten up, the trust hopes to rehome many, and the new eco-domes will enable them to do that.

For the Wildheart Trust, the environment was an important factor to consider, and they have ensured everything is as eco and environmentally friendly as possible. The dome structure is made purely out of bamboo, 777 bamboo sticks to be exact, end-to-end they would stretch to 2km (1¼ mile). The largest dome sits 12m (39 feet) high and should last for around 25 years.

The main bedrooms that complement the eco-domes are made from 102 straw-bales, with earthworms and insects such as springtails and woodlice making the living floor self-cleaning. This frees up keepers’ valuable time to spend on essential work elsewhere. The animals will have access to the bedrooms 24 hours a day.

Black and white lemur

A second set of bedrooms has been made out of blocks from a derelict animal house from another part of the sanctuary; any blocks unable to be used for this purpose were broken down and used to make up the pathways surrounding the area.

The trees used in the domes for climbing and stimulation of the residents were uprooted or knocked down during storm Eunice. Excess bamboo and offcuts not used for the domes will be made into toys for the rescued lions and tigers to play with and enjoy. Every piece of waste from building the new facility was used elsewhere, aligning with their strict zero waste policy.

Visitors are now able to walk through the domes to enjoy seeing primates up close. Like the IW Chamber of Commerce members, they will also be able to appreciate the size and enormity of the domes, and the work that’s gone into making the project a success.

Darren Carter Smith, facilities manager and project co-ordinator for the build, said: “It was fantastic to be able to share the completed primate rescue facility with the Island’s business community. So many different people and organisations have helped to realise this vision, which would never have come to pass without their support. I think everyone who has been involved feels a sense of pride at being a part of such a ground-breaking project, unique in Europe and one which will see our primates rehabilitating in the lap of luxury for years to come.”

The Wildheart Trust has animals at the heart of everything they do; making these domes for The Wildheart Sanctuary is just one way to demonstrate the charity’s commitment to rescueing exotic animals from cruelty across Europe.

You can book your place to visit the sanctuary and its new domes at