Molly Badham

Co-founder of Twycross Zoo


Molly Winifred Badham, zoo founder: born Evesham, Worcestershire 18 May 1914; Director, Twycross Zoo 1963- 2003 (Emeritus); MBE 2002; died Twycross, Leicestershire 19 October 2007.

Like many young children, when asked "What are you going to do when you grow up?", Molly Badham would always reply, "Work with animals!" True to her word, in 1963 she became the co-founder of Twycross Zoo in Leicestershire.

Born in 1914, on leaving Town School in Sutton Coldfield, she began to breed dogs and to run boarding kennels. She also fitted in work at a local pet shop in Station Street, Sutton Coldfield, and not long after the start of the Second World War, bought the shop and moved into the flat above. During the war, she continued her work while helping with the war effort by driving senior army officers around the area. She also became friendly with Nathalie Evans, a fellow dog breeder, and the two set up together in Badham's shop.

Two chimpanzees, Sue and Mickey, were purchased and lived as pets in the flat with Badham and Evans. The two chimps would sit at the table and pour out tea, as well as learning to use and flush the lavatory. They would visit the hairdresser with Badham – she would walk and the chimps would ride a tricycle alongside her. But as Sue and Mickey grew older and bigger, two adults and two chimpanzees in a confined space became a little restricting. One day, whilst Badham and Evans were out, the chimps managed to open the window and threw out most of their personal belongings, including Badham's pink silk knickers, to a cheering crowd below. This was the final push they needed to make the move.

They bought a small plot of land in the village of Hints, just outside Sutton Coldfield, and began a small zoo collection in 1954. This space was soon outgrown. By 1962 they had moved to Twycross and on the Whitsun Bank Holiday the following year opened Twycross Zoo.

They perhaps did not realise what they had started. The zoo continued to grow in reputation, with something new added each year. In 1972 it became the East Midland Zoological Society and was made into a Charitable Trust. Today, the zoo has around 1,000 animals and receives about half a million visitors each year.

The chimps were a big attraction: they opened supermarkets; engaged in a race from the Post Office Tower to the Empire State Building; took walk-on parts in films; and appeared in many commercials for PG Tips tea. Some will remember the PG removal men, Mr Shifter and his son, stuck halfway up the stairs with a piano ("Dad, do you know the piano's on my foot?" "You hum it, son, I'll play it!"), and the chimp Tour de France cyclist who asks a woman fan if she can "ride tandem". Badham said that the chimps enjoyed making the advertisements: "Chimps love dressing up. They have such a sense of humour." Over the years, as the zoo developed the message of conservation, so the commercials, film roles and the zoo Chimps Tea Party show stopped, but still the visitors came, and each year saw an increase in numbers.

Molly Badham's influence remained strong at the zoo and she retired only in 2003, when she was appointed director emeritus. She was a campaigner for the survival of endangered species and of primates in particular. Her passion for chimpanzees was legendary. She hand-reared several chimps, orang-utans and even a gorilla, when the natural mother either could not or would not care for the baby.

Badham was appointed MBE in 2002 and in 1982 was awarded an honorary BSc degree by Leicester University for her services to animal welfare and her work within the zoo community. In 1999 she was the subject of a BBC television series, Molly's Zoo, based on Twycross, and she wrote two books in collaboration with Nathalie Evans and Maureen Lawless, Chimps with Everything (1979) and Molly's Zoo (2000).

The many visitors to Twycross who would find themselves chatting to "the Boss" will recall Molly Badham's ability to make everyone feel important. I spent many hours helping both her and the zoo, and will always remember the fun we had.

Ivan Ellis

News
David Beckham
peopleFootballer joins No campaign
Sport
Angel Di Maria
Football
News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
news
News
i100Exclusive interview with the British analyst who helped expose Bashar al-Assad's use of Sarin gas
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game
film
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script
tv'Thomas comes right up to the abyss', says the actor
News
newsIn short, yes
Sport
Angel Di Maria celebrates his first goal for Manchester United against QPR
Football4-0 victory is team's first win under new manager Louis van Gaal
News
Denny Miller in 1959 remake of Tarzan, the Ape Man
people
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl despairs during the arena auditions
tvX Factor review: Drama as Cheryl and Simon spar over girl band

Arts and Entertainment
art
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris claimed the top spot in this week's single charts
music
Sport
BoxingVideo: The incident happened in the very same ring as Tyson-Holyfield II 17 years ago
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

QA Manual Tester - Agile

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Secondary School Teachers in Ipswich

Competitive & Flexible: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education are l...

Teaching Assistant

£45 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Qualified and/or experienced te...

Nursery Nurses and Assistants

£7 - £8 per hour: Randstad Education Bristol: Qualified nursery nurses and exp...

Day In a Page

These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories