DONCASTER’S award winning Yorkshire Wildlife Park has celebrated its one millionth visitor - just five years after opening.
And Lucky Gill Russell, who was the magic number visitor, won a family VIP package and experience to mark the important milestone for the park, which only opened in 2008.
Since then the park has won an international reputation by offering unrivalled access to some of the world’s most beautiful and at-risk wildlife and has become one of the region’s most popular attractions.
Park director Cheryl Williams said: “It is amazing to achieve such a milestone so quickly and seemed only right for whoever was our millionth visitor to get a special prize.
“We can’t thank everyone enough for all their support – our goal was to offer a unique experience bringing visitors almost face to face with some of the world’s most endangered species.
“By the number of people who come back again it is clear they share our vision.”
Dental nurse Gill, 35, couldn’t believe her luck at being picked after travelling from Barnsley with her son Ben and mother Maureen during the school Easter holidays.
She said: “I can’t believe this happened on our first ever visit to Yorkshire Wildlife Park. I am so pleased we decided to come.”
“We all had a wonderful day – it is really well laid out, especially for the animals who have so much space.”
The park, situated in Branton, has grown from humble beginnings out of the ashes of the former Brockholes Farm petting zoo and riding school.
In its first year it attracted 60,000 visitors but last year welcomed 353,000 visitors and has spent over £5m with suppliers in the local area.
Despite the difficult economy and the coldest March and Easter in years, the park is on track for 400,000 visitors this year.
It has steadily built up its collection of animals and species and is home to lions, giraffes, baboons, meerkats, tigers and leopards.
There are also zebras, antelopes, wallabies, camels, monkeys and more along with a huge indoor play area and cafe.
In 2012 the park was voted Yorkshire’s Most Magnificent Attraction.
Gill said: “I loved the wallabies and their babies while Ben liked them and the meerkats. He also really enjoyed both the indoor and outdoor play areas. We can’t wait to come back, especially now.”