The Wye Valley Butterfly Zoo is the idea and creation of its proprietors, brothers Lindsay and Edward Heyes. Having obtained Planning Permission in 1984, they put up pump-priming capital for H. Barrie Jones to build the World of Butterflies two years later, and were inaugural Directors. Barrie was a very experienced and gifted amateur entomologist and horticulturalist, and was responsible for managing the collection while the brothers looked after administration and marketing.
While the World of Butterflies was still on the drawing board, new legislation and regulations came into force - the Zoo Licencing Act 1981. Lindsay Heyes assisted Barrie in resolving legislation compliance issues which included establishing a formal system of insect husbandry for breeding and nurturing the butterflies. Barrie advised the National Federation of Zoos on areas where the new regulations conflicted with the best practice for the care of lepidoptera. He was personally thanked for his work by Sir Peter Scott, then President of the NFZ and of the British Butterfly Conservation Society, who during a formal visit described the World of Butterflies as “the best zoo of its kind”.
The brothers left the company after three years to concentrate on other business, but never lost the interest they had developed in lepidoptera. Barrie retired after twelve years, when the premises were taken over by a new proprietor. The new tenant had no interest in the challenges of butterfly husbandry, and changed the use - to the horror of the brothers. Then Foot and Mouth Disease struck cattle, the countryside was closed to prevent the spread of the disease, and the tourist industry was laid to waste. Starved of cash, the new owner eventually deserted the former zoo.
Lindsay and Edward reclaimed the premises and restored the building. They researched the husbandry thoroughly, then redesigned and rebuilt the zoo interior for the benefit of the insects. Only then did they appoint and train a graduate zoologist to manage the collection, using their own experience and that of other zoos. They opened Wye Valley Butterfly Zoo in 2004, and set about installing new interpretive material over the next three years to create new style of experience which they termed “the naked zoo” (in honour of Desmond Morris). The term has since been adopted by other zoos which also display the system of care of their animals instead of hiding it behind closed doors.
Today, the brothers operate the aMazing Hedge Puzzle, and Wye Valley Miniature Golf, operate Wye Valley Warfare Laser Ops, and provide and maintain the common amenities of the Wye Valley Visitor Centre. The garden centre and cafe are independently run.