Paradise Wildlife Park is to change its name to Hertfordshire Zoo.

The rebranding will officially launch on the wildlife park's 40th anniversary on April 1, 2024.

The name change will mark a new chapter in what was formerly Broxbourne Zoo, once dubbed "the worst zoo in the UK".

Thirty-eight years ago you would have found a very different site to today's wildlife park, with poor facilities and a lonely lion, Bobby, in a cage.

"Bobby was already here when we acquired the site, which at the time was Broxbourne Zoo," explained Paradise Wildlife Park founder Peter Sampson.

"And the place at the time, you couldn't really describe it as a zoo or wildlife park. It was more like a scrapyard, a rubbish dump."

Now home to more than 800 animals, including penguins, red pandas and Amur tigers, Paradise Wildlife Park has over the past four decades grown into one of the top tourist destinations in Hertfordshire.

With only two years until the park's 40th anniversary, Peter Sampson shared that “it’s time for us to look to the future and as the natural world does, evolve".

He said: "By becoming Hertfordshire Zoo, we want to align ourselves more closely with the whole of the Hertfordshire community and establish ourselves as a zoo that everyone across our county is proud of.

"We will shine a spotlight on Hertfordshire as a positive beacon for animal welfare, conservation, and education.”

Paradise's conservation work already reaches a wider audience nationally thanks to the exploits of brothers Aaron, Tyler and Cam Whitnall on CBBC show One Zoo Three.

A PWP spokesperson said Hertfordshire Zoo "will be a truly inspiring experience" and as trusted experts and advocates for conservation, "they want to share the wonder of wildlife with children and adults alike".

They added: "Educating our visitors on the positive impact of conservation and highlighting how we can all live a more sustainable way of life is at the heart of our vision for the future."

The popular wildlife park in White Stubbs Lane, near Welwyn Hatfield, has already seen dramatic changes since 2017, from new habitats for the animals such as Amazon and Beyond and the bespoke Land of the Tigers, to the opening of the World of Dinosaurs in 2018.

New attractions like the World of Dinosaurs, which last week welcomed its latest life-sized animatronic prehistoric creatures, and mixed species habitat Sun Bear Heights, which will feature sun bears and binturongs, have all been part of phase one of the owners' long-term masterplan.

Going back to the 1960s, the zoo located on the current site of Paradise Wildlife Park was vastly different.

Broxbourne Zoo, as it was then known, was privately owned by Cyril Stamp up to the mid 1970s, and then Peter Phipps to 1984.

The zoo was notorious for poor animal facilities and by the early 1980s was widely regarded and documented as the worst zoo in Britain.

The Sampson family purchased the site on April 1, 1984, and the zoo closed on Christmas Day that year to allow for urgent renovation work to comply with the Zoo Licensing Act 1981.

Peter Sampson said: "Most of the animals were in pretty poor condition or in poor facilities.

"You had things like chimpanzees sitting on seats smoking cigarettes. It was entertainment rather than a conservation breeding centre.

"There were also animal rights people outside the front gate."

Then there was Bobby the lion in his appalling surroundings.

"I don't like to say the word cage," said Peter. "But it was more like a small prison. Possibly 10-15 feet square, made of old scaffold poles."

With zoo operations ceased, buildings on the site were demolished. Improvements were made to the infrastructure, water supply, gas pipes and electricity supply.

This was quickly followed by the rehousing of Bobby the lion in a purpose-built enclosure.

Taking up the story, Peter Sampson said: "The day we moved Bobby and to see him run freely on grass for the first time, it made us think this is what we want to do. This is where you know, we're going to change our lifestyle from being a bus and coach company to looking after animals."

The family's hard work paid off in July 1985 when East Herts District Council granted a zoo licence, and the official reopening of the site under the new name ‘Paradise Park and Woodland Zoo’ took place in Easter 1986.

The Sampson family sold their ‘Sampson Coaches and Buses’ company in 1989, and then their MOT testing centre and garage to allow them to concentrate solely on the management and finance of Paradise Park and Woodland Zoo.

In 1990 the name was changed again to Paradise Wildlife Park to reflect the move towards conservation, environmental education, and more spacious open enclosures for the animals.

The forthcoming rebrand will officially launch on April 1, 2024, as the family-run charity enters the next phase of its long-term plan, which will see a host of new but sadly threatened species calling Hertfordshire Zoo home.

Chief executive officer Lynn Whitnall said: “We hope the local community and supporters of the park can understand our reasons for this change and we hope you are as excited as we are for what is coming as we continue to develop and evolve as a charity.”

With under two years to go, Paradise Wildlife Park, the Zoological Society of Hertfordshire will be releasing updates on their website and across their social media platforms in the build-up to this exciting change for not only the zoo but the county.