Flamingoland: 1963 - 1993


Flamingo Park opened on 28th June 1961 by Pentland Hick as The Yorkshire Zoological Gardens. In 1963 it was the first to display cetaceans in the UK followed closely by Marineland Morecambe. The original dolphin pool was a small figure of eight facility in the reptile house. As well as bottlenosed dolphins other whales were imported including a young white whale in 1964 and a young pilot whale in 1966. In 1965 Hick decided to float the zoo on the UK Stock Exchange and became Associated Pleasure Parks. The success for the pioneering dolphin exhibits was due to the insight of the zoo professional Reg Bloom who later was involved in similar developments at Windsor Safari Park, London Dolphinarium and Clacton Pier.

In 1967 a larger facility was constructed that over several years then housed bottlenose dolphins and the male killer whale 'Cuddles' who arrived in November 1968. The park also now owned and operated a zoo and Marineland at Cleethorpes which opened in 1966 and for a period owned Dudley Zoo which displayed dolphins and also housed 'Cuddles' who was moved there from Flamingo Park in May 1971. The park was now owned by Scotia Pleasure Parks a diversion of Scotia Leisure whose board of directors included Don Robinson who was the also the owner of the Scarborough Marineland and Zoo.

From 1975 until early 1977 the dolphinarium, which had been rebranded Ocean World, was operated and the dolphins supplied by Jervale Ltd a company owned by filtration engineer John Nolan and his wife. Jervale also operated a dolphin holding facilities in South Elmsall for a short period in 1974 and supplied animals for Ocean Park in Seaburn, Sunderland. In 1975 two of their dolphins were involved in dolphin show in Taiwan for three months returning to the Flamingo Park in July that year and three week Christmas show in Sheffield Road Baths in Rotherham. They also supplied a sea lion show in the summer of 1975 at the now disused dolphinarium at Porthcawl. In May 1976 the Nolan's transported a dolphin to Yorkshire Television Studios in Leeds which was displayed a portable tank for the popular science programme "Don't Ask Me". The animal safely returned to Flamingo Park the next day.

After this time the operators of Margate Dolphinarium were involved in suppling one or more dolphins for one summer season in 1979.

In 1978 the park was bought by a former director of Scotia Leisure Robert Gibb whose family continue to run the park today. From 1979 and until 1984 the facility remained empty and did not display animals.

The last three dolphins arrived in 1984 - at the now renamed Flamingoland - and were owned and cared for by Dolphin Services UK. The animals remained on site until 1993 when the dolphinarium finally closed due to new husbandry legislation for UK cetaceans; the pool failed to remain legal due to it not being deep enough.

The three female dolphins were then successfully relocated to European collections and have since successfully bred and reared several calves. 

Lotty's first calf was Lyra (F) born in 1990. Her second calf was Lotus (M) born in 1995. Lyra still resides at Kolmården. Lotus now resides at Zoomarine, Portugal.

Betty gave birth to Nau (F) in 2001; Tango (M) in 2005; Mia (F) in 2008. Tango sadly died in 2008. However, Nau successfully gave birth in 2014 to Goccia (F). Betty, Nau and Goccia reside at the Acquario di Genova. Mia resides
at Oltremare, Riccione, Italy.
Sharky gave birth to Jo (F) in 2011. These two animals reside at Marineland in Antibe.

Sharky and Betty remain alive. Lotty died in February 2020
at Marineland in Antibe.

 A Review of Dolphinaria states:
Pool: 'Figure of eight' shaped main pool; 24.38 m max. length, 2 x 12.19 m diameter, 3/4 pool 4.27 m deep, rest 2.74 m, surface area approx. 233 m2 . Rectangular holding pool adjoining; 6.40 x 7.62 x 3.05 m deep, surface area 48.77 m2 , which can be operated separately. Total surface area approx. 282 m2. Partly indoor, salt mix water.


October 1963, John Sadler, Britain's first dolphin trainer,
taping dolphin speech at Flamingo Park Zoo in Pickering,
Yorkshire. The recordings, made above and below water,
 are put through a computer to try and decipher
dolphin language.








Dolphins Delight (1966)

 Pregnant Dolphin (1968) 

Cuddles The Killer Whale (1969)

1990  "Mad About Animals" featuring the dolphins display at the park


Flamingoland was one of the first dolphinariums outside the USA to pioneer husbandry training which allowed blood, breath and stomach contents to be obtained for on-going health monitoring as a trained behaviour with very little stress to the animal concerned. This has now become common-place around the world in zoological collection not just with marine mammals but many other species.

The dolphin biannual full medical. Dr Jay Sweeney can be seen here examining one of the dolphins with ultrasound scanning equipment. Dr Sweeney pioneered the above mentioned husbandry training in the USA along with training staff at the now closed Marineland.





The Flamingoland dolphins Lotty, Betty and Sharky as they appeared in the feature film "The Fruit Machine" made at the park in 1987. The film was set at the Brighton Aquarium and the outside section of the main dolphin tank had been covered by a false wall.

These were the last dolphins to be displayed at the park and they moved to European facilities when the dolphinarium closed in 1993.

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