‘Jurassic Park obsessed kid’ opens UK’s first reptile zoo with hundreds of crocs, snakes and lizards in Scarborough
When Jordan Woodhead witnessed the hatching of his two spectacled caimans earlier this year, he realized a lifelong dream.
The pair of tiny fangs had been bred by Jordan himself during the pandemic and are just part of his plan to create the UK’s first reptile zoo.
During the day, an aquarist from the SEA LIFE center in ScarboroughJordan, 27, has amassed a huge collection of reptiles over the past seven years that he hopes to one day share with the general public.
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Jordan keeps about 100 animals — including crocodiles, caimans, alligators, snakes, lizards, tortoises, and tortoises — and accounts for more than two-thirds of the borough’s dangerous wildlife licenses.
He keeps his reptiles in specially heated buildings that he designed and built himself and also has dedicated heated pools for his larger crocodiles.
Jordan’s love of all things reptilian began decades ago.
As a child obsessed with Jurassic Park, he pestered his parents to buy him a reptile until the day they conceded and purchased two bearded dragons from nine-year-old Jordan.
He recalls: “The more I read about reptiles and the more I knew about them, I just thought they were dinosaurs that were actually still alive.
“It really grew from there, reading as much as possible, learning as much as possible and wanting to keep them and learn more and more.”
He says his parents, who initially didn’t like lizards as much as he did, “certainly got used to them” and are now very supportive of his project.
It is also from them that he acquired land, on which he is already building the first public enclosures.
Jordan has a zoo license waiver and is in the process of getting a full license – which he says has been delayed by Covid – after which he just has to scrape together the final funds to make his dream a reality.
He says he has half of what he needs to launch “Reptile World Zoo” and claims to have interested investors.
Jordan’s project was inspired by seeing reptile zoos on a trip to America, and he thinks that – despite some people’s sensitivity around reptiles – there would be a big market in the UK.
He says: “Generally people are afraid of certain reptiles, especially snakes, but at the same time there is a level of fascination and interest among the general public.
“As long as they’re in a safe environment, people are okay.”
Contrary to their frosty reputation, Jordan says many reptiles are very friendly, with strong personalities.
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“Some are very friendly,” he says, “the snakes aren’t very friendly – they’re very interesting and they have their own characters – but a lot of the lizards and the bigger fangs are at that level in terms of intelligence.
“I have a water monitor named Charlie, he’s a very big, very smart lizard, and they’re very interested in what you’re doing.
“A snake, for example, if you work around its enclosure, once it realizes that you have no food, it is not interested.
“Whereas Charlie the water monitor wants to climb on you, climb on your tools, scratch your feet, like a dog I guess.”
Jordan says he was “over the moon” after successfully breeding crocodilians for the first time.
He says: “I was over the moon, it really felt like a lifelong dream coming true, because I saw it in documentaries when I was a kid.
“A crocodile when it hatches is so incredibly small, you can’t appreciate it on TV, it literally fits in the palm of your hand.
“To think that it’s going to get six, seven, eight feet long and be able to take down big prey is just a fascinating concept to me.”
When the zoo is up and running, he hopes to get involved in conservation efforts, helping to protect endangered species around the world.
“If I can contribute to this in a bigger way and make it my life’s work, then that’s what I want to do,” he says.
In the meantime, Jordan is doing his part by working with the RSPCA, taking in injured animals and needing care.
A year ago he attended a call a year ago at a house fire in Hull which saw two large lizards trapped inside the burning building.
Once the fire was out, Jordan went to get the animals, which had lung infections. After a round of antibiotics, however, they made a full recovery and Jordan was able to help them settle back in.
You can follow the progress of Jordan and his animals here
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