Chester Zoo

Chester Zoo
Chester Zoo

Chester Zoological Gardens
Date opened 1931
Location Upton-by-Chester, Cheshire, England
Land area 111 acres (45 ha)
Coordinates 53°13′36″N 2°53′3″W / 53.22667°N 2.88417°W / 53.22667; -2.88417Coordinates: 53°13′36″N 2°53′3″W / 53.22667°N 2.88417°W / 53.22667; -2.88417
Number of animals 9019+ (2007)
Number of species 422 (2007)
Annual visitors 1.3 million visitors (2007)[1]
Major exhibits Elephants of the Asian Forest,
Realm of the Red Ape
Tsavo Black Rhino Experience
Spirit of the Jaguar

Chester Zoo is a zoological garden at Upton-by-Chester, in Cheshire, England. It was opened in 1931 by George Mottershead and his family, who used as a basis some animals reported to have come from an earlier zoo in Shavington.[2] It is one of the UK's largest zoos at 111 acres (45 ha).[1] The zoo has a total land holding of approximately 400 acres (160 ha).

Chester Zoo is currently operated by the North of England Zoological Society, a registered charity founded in 1934. The zoo receives no government funding. It is the most-visited wildlife attraction in Britain with more than 1.3 million visitors in 2007.[3] In the same year Forbes described it as one of the best fifteen zoos in the world.[4]



Early history

The Mottershead family's market garden business was based in Shavington near Crewe. George Mottershead collected animals such as lizards and insects that arrived with exotic plants imported by the business. A visit to Belle Vue Zoo in Manchester as a boy in 1903 fuelled his developing interest in creating a zoo of his own.

Mottershead was wounded in World War I and spent several years in a wheelchair. Despite this, his collection of animals grew and he began to search for a suitable home for his zoo. He chose Oakfield House in Upton, a suburb of Chester, which he purchased for £3,500 in 1930.[5] The house had 9 acres (3.6 ha) of gardens and provided easy access to the railways and to Manchester and Liverpool. There were local objections, but Mottershead prevailed, and Chester Zoo opened to the public on 10 June 1931.[6] The first animals were displayed in pens in the courtyard.[5]

Rapid expansion followed after World War II, despite the difficulty of sourcing materials. Mottershead had to be resourceful; the polar bear exhibit (1950) was built from recycled wartime road blocks and pillboxes.[5] "Always building" was the zoo's slogan at the time. Mottershead received the OBE, an honorary degree of MSc, and served as President of the International Union of Zoo Directors. He died in 1978 aged 84.

Zoo design

Mottershead wanted to build a zoo without the traditional Victorian iron bars to cage the animals.[7] He was influenced by the ideas of Carl Hagenbeck, who invented the modern zoo concept and by Heine Hediger, a pioneer of ethology.

At Chester, Mottershead took Hagenback's idea for moats and ditches as an alternative to cage bars, and extended their use throughout the zoo, often with species that Hagenback had not considered. For example, when chimpanzees were released into their new enclosure at Chester in 1956, a group of grassy islands separated the apes from visitors by no more than a 12-foot (3.7 m) strip of water. Nobody knew then if chimps could swim. It turned out that they could not, and today the chimp islands are a centrepiece of Chester Zoo.

In 1986 the zoo was enclosed with a fence, in line with the Zoo Licensing Act 1981.[8]

Management structure

The zoo is split into three separate directorates under the management of the Director General, Mark Pligrim:

  • Conservation and Education
  • Corporate Services
  • Business Operations

Layout and facilities

Mobility scooters are available near the main entrance, as is locker and buggy hire.

Flag Lane divides the zoo park into two which the Zoofari monorail has to cross

The zoo is bisected by a public bridleway, Flag Lane. For many years, a single bridge (now called Elephants' Bridge), drivable by zoo vehicles and powered wheelchairs, near the elephant exhibit was the only crossing place within the grounds. A second crossing, passable by pedestrians and mobility scooters, called Bats' Bridge, opened in April 2008 near the Twilight Zone, has improved the ability of visitors to circulate.

There are other ways to travel around the zoo:

  • A transportation system, now generally known as the monorail, with a station near the elephants and a station near the lions. It runs in a circle.
  • A water bus operates on a canal network within the zoo in peak season, but it stops at only one place.

Visitors must pay extra for using the monorail and the water bus.

Chester's catering facilities include the Café Bembé near the main entrance which opened in 2006. June's Pavilion is in the middle of the zoo. The Oakfield Restaurant, in a Victorian mansion house near the lion enclosure, and the Acorn Bar, are both used for private functions as well as catering to zoo visitors.

There are children's play areas, shops, kiosks and several picnic lawns around the zoo. A second pedestrian entrance is located in the southeast corner of the zoo behind Oakfield House.

For a long time the public entrance was at the east end. In recent years the public entrance has moved to the north side, west of Flag Lane, near the elephants, and the old car parks at the east end are being built over with service and educational buildings.

The zoo owns land outside the public area, and uses that land to grow food for its herbivorous animals.


Elevated view from the monorail. The side track leads to the depot

A monorail system was built and installed by Computerised People Mover International at a cost of $4 million and then opened by Katharine, Duchess of Kent in 1991.[9][10][11] The system is 1 mile (1½ km) long and travels on an elevated guideway to give views of the park grounds — the track crosses Flag Lane twice on its one-way circular shape. The two halves of the park are connected by the system and there is one station in each part, near lion and monkey enclosures respectively. Each train on the system holds 24 passengers[12] between its four cars and a full tour takes around fifteen minutes.[13]

The system is a straddle beam monorail. The layout has a separate depot and control room[9][12] and carries approximately 2,000 passengers per day.[14] During 2009 improvements to the monorail's drive system and electrics were made by T&M Machine Tool Electronics, including the laying of over 25 miles (40 km) of new cabling bringing the total cost of the improvements to £300,000. The monorail was re-launched by music producer Pete Waterman during a visit on 23 July 2009, when Waterman drove the first loop of the new system.[12]

Species and animals

Chester Zoo holds a large and diverse collection. At the end of 2007, over half the species at the zoo appeared on the IUCN Red List and 155 were classified as threatened species. 134 species were kept as part of a managed captive breeding programme. The zoo manages the studbooks for Congo buffalo, jaguar, blue-eyed cockatoo, Madagscan tree boa, gemsbok (all ESB species), black rhinoceros, Ecuadorian Amazon parrot, Mindanao writhe-billed hornbill and Rodrigues fruit bat (all EEP species). In addition, Chester holds 265 threatened plant species.[15]

Group Number of species Number of animals
Mammals 79 1864
Birds 155 1138
Reptiles 52 230
Amphibians 24 577
Fish 80 3829
Invertebrates 32 1381+
Total 422 9019+

Animal exhibits

Elephants of the Asian Forest

Chester was the first zoo in the UK to successfully breed Asian elephants in captivity. The most famous of these was Jubilee (1977–2003), so named as he was born in 1977, the year of the Queen's Silver Jubilee. The zoo has a breeding herd of eight elephants,[16] The current herd is composed of two males and six females - 16-year old breeding male Upali, aging females Maya and Jangolie, the 'grandma' of the herd, Thi, her two daughters, Sithami and Jamilah, and Sithami's offspring, Sundara and Nayan. The elephant house also used to house African elephants, rhinos, hippos and tapirs. Motty, a hybrid African-Asian elephant calf was born in July 1978, but died in infancy.

A GBP2 million breeding facility modelled on an Assam (India) rainforest called Elephants of the Asian Forest opened in Easter 2006, as a major alteration of the zoo's previous elephant house. Inside the elephant house, other indigenous Asian species are exhibited, including great Indian hornbills, azure-winged magpies, green peafowl, red-billed blue magpie, red junglefowl, Derbyan Parakeets,, spiny turtles, and monitor lizards. There is an aquarium for Pla Eesok, pig-nosed turtles, clown loach and Asian arowana fish.[17]

Spirit of the Jaguar

Spirit of the Jaguar[18] was opened in 2001 and is sponsored by Jaguar cars. The exhibit is split into four sections. The two inside are modelled on a rainforest and a dry savannah, and the two outside contain rivers and pools so that the cats can exercise their swimming skills. There are currently five jaguars, four spotted and one Black panther. A male and female named Salvador and Sophia had cubs in 2005 that died soon after birth. As well as jaguars, the exhibit also contains a colony of leaf-cutter ants, poison arrow frogs, emerald tree boas and numerous rainforest fish including butterfly goodeid. In 2008, an amphibian based exhibit with Surinam toads, caecilians and poison dart frogs was opened, and the exhibit will undergo further work in late 2011.

Jaguars at Chester Zoo

Realm of the Red Ape

Realm of the Red Ape is a GBP3.5 million extension to the existing orangutan house, home to Bornean and Sumatran orangutans, and is the most expensive capital project in the zoo's history.[19] The exhibit opened to the public on 26 May 2007 after a two-year construction period. It comprises a new two-story building linked to the existing orangutan house with three indoor and two outdoor enclosures, providing accommodation for a larger number of apes. The outdoor areas can be viewed from a first floor public gallery and feature mesh roofs supported by tree-like structures which act as climbing frames for the apes. A further enclosure houses a group of four lar gibbons. On 29 January 2008, the zoo celebrated the birth of new baby Sumatran orangutan.[20]

Animals and plants from Indonesia are exhibited inside Realm of the Red Ape in a rainforest-themed setting. Birds on display include the Timor sparrow, chestnut-backed thrush, and orange-headed thrush. The crocodile monitor, reticulated python, red-tailed racer, king ratsnake, White's tree frog, emerald tree monitor and green tree python feature among the reptiles. Asian Tree Toads, giant walking sticks, jungle nymphs and leaf insects complete the lineup.

Located next to Realm of the Red Ape is an enclosure for Europe's first breeding pair of Babirusa and Oriental Small-clawed Otters.

The Chimpanzee Breeding Centre

This pavilion was opened in 1989 by Diana, Princess of Wales (who also used the title Countess of Chester) and is home to 26 common chimpanzees. This is the largest colony of chimps in Europe, housed in the Roundhouse, a conical indoor enclosure linked to an outside moated island. The island is planted with many bushes and has large poles for the chimps to climb on. The inside area has a climbing frame that allows the chimps to stay close together on several levels of platform. There are seven interconnected off-show dens. Dylan is the current dominant male of the Chester Zoo colony.

The two okapis at the zoo

Tsavo Rhino Experience

The zoo's black rhinoceros exhibit, modelled on the Tsavo National Park in Kenya, was opened in 2003 at a cost of GBP2 million. The zoo has a successful rhinoceros breeding programme and currently keeps 10 animals. Meerkats and Aardvarks are kept in a small enclosure nearby, and a nearby paddock is home to banded mongoose and warthog.

Fruit Bat Forest

Fruit Bat Forest is the largest free-flying bat cave in Europe. The cave holds three species of bat: Rodrigues fruit bat, Livingstone's fruit bat and Seba's short-tailed bat. It is also home to a varied collection of other species including Madagascar hissing cockroaches, Turkish spiny mice and blind cave fish.

Monkey Islands

Monkey Islands was opened in 1997, replacing the old monkey house, and is currently home to four monkey species: Colombian black spider monkeys, mandrills, lion-tailed macaques and Sulawesi crested macaques. Campbell's guenons and porcupines were formerly housed with the mandrills. Visitors enter the monkey house and view the animals from a central corridor. Each species has a glass-fronted indoor enclosure with climbing apparatus and an outdoor enclosure, moated and heavily planted.

Miniature Monkeys

Miniature Monkeys, opened in May 2004, consists of two enclosures. The first is home to a pair of black-tailed marmosets with two male pygmy marmosets, and the second is shared by three Emperor Tamarins and three golden-headed lion tamarins. Azara's agouti, Geoffroy's Marmosets, pied tamarins and black lion tamarins have also been housed here in the past but have been moved out for various reasons.

Bears of the Cloud Forest

Bears of the Cloud Forest opened in 2004 and is home to a pair of spectacled bears and other South American animals. The purpose-built exhibit is designed to mimic the bear's natural habitat by providing trees and a rocky terrain. Sharing the bears' enclosure with them are a non-breeding group of ring-tailed coatis. Nearby are paddocks housing vicuña (wild relatives of the llama), capybara, Brazilian tapirs and common rheas.

Guanaco were previously housed with the rhea.

Secret World of the Okapi

Formerly the camel house, this enclosure adjoining the giraffe house was remodelled in 2006 to house okapi. Initially two males were kept, Dicky arrived from Marwell Wildlife in 2005 and Mbuti came from Bristol Zoo in the same year. In 2006 Dicky left for London Zoo to make way for a female named Stuma from Germany. In 2009 Mbuti and Dicky were swapped back with Mbuti going to London after being advised not to breed with Stuma and Dicky coming back to Chester. Other animals that can be seen here include the Gambian pouched rat, several species of cichlid from Lake Barombi Mbo in Cameroon, Gaboon viper, Mount Kulal spiny mouse and Mesic four-striped grass mouse.

The fountain and gardens in front of Islands in Danger

Islands in Danger

This exhibit is primarily a herpetarium for the zoo's Komodo dragons, originating from the Lesser Sunda Islands. It was opened in 1998 and extended in 2003 to include an outdoor enclosure used by the dragons in the warmer summer months. The exhibit is built on the site of the zoo's former bird house. In 2007 several young baby Komodo dragons were put on display after one of the zoo's two females had a virgin birth through parthenogenesis, the first such case recorded in this species.[21] The exhibit was revamped in 2009 to house Caribbean Iguanas in one section of the building.

Islands in Danger also houses various Indonesian and Philippine rainforest birds, such as Red Birds of Paradise, Palawan Peacock-pheasants, Pheasant Pigeons and Victoria Crowned Pigeons. Recently added was a small group of Mindanao Bleeding-hearts which have successfully bred. Birds formally[verification needed] species formerly kept in the exhibit include Visayan Tarictic Hornbill, Socorro Dove, Papuan Lorikeet and St. Lucia Amazon.

Mongoose Mania

Located near the tigers, this area used to be a petting farm, but was closed due to an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. The petting farm is now a picnic lawn and a former Kune Kune Pig enclosure has been demolished in favour of a food stall.

Mongoose Mania, which houses dwarf mongooses features tunnels beneath the enclosure which allow children to crawl through, popping up their heads into plastic domes to give them a mongoose's eye view of the world. The zoo's Peafowl are often seen here.

Giant Otters and Penguins

In early 2010 the Californian Sealions left the collection. Over the late winter the pool was converted to house a new species to the zoo. The Giant Otters went on show for the first time on 26 March 2010. The zoo plans to try and breed the species in the near future.

In the neighbouring enclosure a large breeding group of over 40 Humboldt Penguins have their own pool, and visitors can watch the birds from an underwater viewing window.

Tropical Realm

Chester's Tropical Realm is Britain's largest tropical house at over 26,000 cubic metres. Opened in 1964, most of the interior is an open-plan space extending to roof level and themed with pools and mature tropical plants, with pathways for visitors through the undergrowth. Here, more than 30 species of birds are free-flying, including Nicobar Pigeons, various species of starlings and ground birds such as Roul-roul Partridges.

Aviaries and vivaria are arranged around the sides of the building; those on the upper level were originally designed for birds of paradise and the Hornbill aviaries were originally made for Gorillas . The aviaries currently house birds such as the Great Indian Hornbill, Rhinoceros Hornbill, two pairs of Tarictic Hornbill (one pure-bred and one hybrid), Writhed-billed Hornbill, Wrinkled Hornbill, Red-crested Turaco, Palawan Peacock-pheasant, Congo Peafowl, Bali Starling, Blue-crowned Pigeon, fairy-bluebird, White-rumped Shama, Montserrat Oriole and Red-billed Curassow.

The Tropical Realm is also the centre of the reptile collection. The crocodile pools (which formerly housed West African Dwarf Crocodiles, American Alligators andPhilippine crocodiles) are currently empty. Near the entrance is an enclosure for tuataras. This lizard-like species from New Zealand is the last surviving sphenodont, a prehistoric group of reptiles, and Chester is the only British zoo to exhibit them. There were many varieties of snakes and lizards in the past (many had to depart as a result ; Rhinoceros ratsnake, Garter Snakes and Eyelash Vipers now being the only remaining. The lizard collection is now made up of beaded lizards, Caiman lizards, and a Parson's Chameleon.

Tortoises are represented by the Galápagos and radiated, whilst other species include poison dart frogs and invertebrates such as a Death's Head Cockroaches, Tailless Whip Scorpions and a salmon pink bird-eating spider.

Europe on the Edge

This is the zoo's largest aviary, and is one of the biggest in the UK. It was opened in 1993 on the site of the former polar bear enclosure. It houses a variety of European birds, including the European Black and Griffon Vultures and the rarer of the two European storks, the Black Stork. There are spoonbills, ibis and egrets as well as a selection of waterfowl. Smaller birds include the Rock Dove, Northern Lapwing, Red-legged Partridge and the native but rare Red-billed Chough.

Condor Cliffs

This aviary was constructed to rehouse the zoo's breeding pair of Andean condors, who have since parent-reared a chick for the first time. It is now also home for the American black vulture from the Americas and several species of waterfowl. The aviary is dominated by a large sandstone waterfall, and a fake llama skeleton is used at feeding time. The enclosure is built on the site of the zoo's former brown bear enclosure.

Rare Parrot Breeding Centre

Parrots on display here include Blue-eyed Cockatoos, Red-vented Cockatoos, Palm Cockatoos, Short-billed Black Cockatoos, Red-and-Blue lories, Yellow-backed Chattering Lories, Mount Apo Lorikeets and Blue-and-yellow Macaws. Most of the birds were moved to the Rare Parrot Breeding Centre from the old parrot house when it was demolished in 2005 to make way for Realm of the Red Ape.

Mythical Macaws

This enclosure consists of several aviaries housing rare and endangered South American parrots and macaws. These include the Hyacinth Macaw, Blue-winged Macaw, Blue-throated Macaw, Golden Conure, Golden-capped Conure, Blue-throated Conure, Red-crowned Amazon and Red-tailed Amazon. The first aviary was opened in 2001 and the remainder in 2004. A single Azara's Agouti also forms part of the exhibit.


The aquarium is a small and traditional building (one of the oldest at the zoo, built by George Mottershead's daughter and son-in-law in the 1950s) housing a varied collection of freshwater and marine fish, aquatic invertebrates and amphibians. It has had notable success breeding seahorses and achieved the first captive breeding of the freshwater motoro stingray.

Other notable fish include the electric eel, African lungfish, tropical reef fishes (such as Clownfish) and various Lake Malawi cichlids. Amphibians include the Japanese fire belly newt and axolotl. Invertebrates such as Starfish, Sea Urchins and several coral and Shrimps Can be housed with the fish.

Asian Plains and paddocks

In 2008, Asian Plains received its official opening.[22] Based around a mixed-species paddock featuring blackbuck and Burmese brow-antlered deer, the exhibit has recently been extended to include new enclosures for Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros and Cheetah. The male rhino was joined by a female in 2008 to form a pair which the zoo hoped would breed. Sadly in November 2009 the male Indian rhino "Patna" was put down due to a longstanding leg injury. The zoo obtained a replacement male from Edinburgh Zoo in March 2010. Since they were closely related the previous female departed for a zoo in Spain shortly after, and the zoo are in the progress of creating a breeding situation - Baabu has now been exchanged for 'Beni' from Pilsen Zoo. The paddocks formerly housed barasingha, Ankole cattle and sitatunga.

Other paddocks on the west side of the zoo support grazing herds of Grevy's zebra, sitatunga, Kirk's Dik-dik, scimitar-horned oryx, gemsbok, Red Lechwe and Roan Antelope. The sitatunga share their paddock with ostrich, and the Red Lechwe and Roan antelope also share an exhibit.

Przewalski's horses have recently left the collection to make way for the new African hunting dog enclosure. Also formely housed here were Père David's Deer, red-necked wallaby and emus

African Painted Dogs

In 2011, a new exhibit on the site of the former Przewalski's horse paddock was opened. In the style of an African Research Station, the exhibit has a dry landscape with fake kopje stones. A pack of seven African Painted Dogs are the main exhibit, however Crested Porcupines and Rock Hyrax are nearby. Yellow Mongoose are also due to join the display.

Forest Zone and Butterfly Journey

The north east area of the zoo is where many forest-dwelling species are kept. As well as the chimpanzees, okapi, jaguar, condors and Tropical Realm, there are enclosures for Congo buffalo, Warthogs and red river hogs. Nearby is a large paddock for the zoo's six Rothschild giraffes. Chilean Pudú and Giant Anteater can be seen across the canal at the back of the giraffe house. Buffy-headed capuchins are housed near the exit of the Tropical Realm as well as a group of native sand lizards, midwife toads and a mixed enclosure for Red-knobbed Curassow and Blue Jays. The empty enclosure formerly housing maned wolves has been replaced by a heated butterfly house called Butterfly Journey, which is based around the life cycle of a butterfly, featuring free-flying butterflies and moths (The exotic species on show include Blue Morphos, Giant Owls, Glasswings, Swallowtails and the Atlas Moth), a cabinet of cocoons, and an area with caterpillars.

Animals formely displayed in forest zone include maned wolves, babirusa, visayan warty pigs, ring-tailed coatis and bactrian camels.

Big cats

As well as jaguars, Chester Zoo keeps lions, tigers and cheetahs[23] in its big cat collection. The lions are the Asiatic subspecies found only in the Gir Forest in India in the wild. The zoo's former resident male Asoka was joined by a female, Asha, from Rome in 2006. The pair have bred on three occasions, but so far their only offspring to survive has been a male cub, Tejas, born and hand-reared in 2007. His upbringing was featured prominently in the first series of Zoo Days. Tejas left Chester Zoo for Besancon early in 2008 as part of the European breeding programme for this subspecies. Asoka left the zoo in early 2010, he was moved to Rome Zoo as part of the European breeding programme. His replacement is 3-year-old Iblis, who arrived from Planckendael Zoo in Belgium. In late summer 2011, Asha retired to Santillana and was replaced by four year females Kiburi and Kumari.

In 2007, a male Sumatran tiger called Kepala arrived from Dudley Zoo to join the two resident female Bengal tigers, who left in 2008. The same year, the zoo acquired a female tiger named Kirana, but unfortunately it was discovered that the pair were related. Kepala departed to Dublin Zoo and a new male named Fabi was brought in to form a breeding pair of Sumatrans, a critically endangered subspecies[24] in the wild. Kirana and Fabi bred have so far bred on one occasion; a single cub was born on June 18, 2011, but died aged eleven days.

The zoo welcomed its first ever cheetah cubs in June 2011. Female cheetah Kinky-Tail gave birth to a litter of four on June 21, 2011. The cubs were given their first health check on the 19th August, which revealed that there are 2 females and 2 males. The female cubs have been named Kinza and Shendi, whilst the males have been named Rufaa and Juba.

Other exhibits

Other animals exhibited at Chester Zoo include Bactrian camel and onager in a large paddock in the centre of the zoo, formerly the zebra exhibit. A paddock which was only visible from the monorail but can now be seen from the Bats' Bridge holds a group of Philippine spotted deer, alongside Negros Island Warty Pigs next door.

In 2009, a walk-through bird safari with African bird species opened. It currently houses hornbills, lilac-breasted rollers, weaver birds and a variety of waterfowl amongst other species.

Bordering the paddocks is a waterway running north-south along which the water bus travels, past island groups of Geoffroy's Marmosets, Alaotran gentle lemurs, red ruffed lemurs and a pair of anoa. Cottontop tamarins were formerly housed on the Geoffroy's Marmoset Island, whilst the Gentle Lemur exhibit was formerly home to Black-and-white ruffed lemurs.

In the southeast corner of the zoo are enclosures housing an assortment of animals including Eastern bongos, Yellow Mongooses, bush dogs, red pandas, Servals, southern cassowaries, red-crowned cranes golden pheasant, and in the near future, Giant Anteaters.

Near the Rare Parrot Breeding Centre is an aviary currently housing spectacled owls and formerly home to macaws and keas the remainder of the zoo’s owl collection are seen nearby. The owl aviaries were recently modified.

Aviaries for snowy owls, rhinoceros hornbills and Mauritius kestrels are located behind the Children's Fun Ark. Flocks of Chilean and Caribbean flamingos live in shallow water alongside a large island housing a group of ring-tailed lemurs. New indoor accommodation for the flamingos was completed in 2007. Pelicans, storks, cranes and a variety of waterfowl are housed in large pens alongside Tsavo. Chester also has free roaming Peafowl, and harvest mice.

From 1 July 2011 to 9 October 2011 a little southeast of the Komodo Dragons is a display of animatronic dinosaurs: Triceratops, Edmontosaurus and its eggs and hatchlings, Dilophosaurus (which squirts water from its mouth), Allosaurus, Rugops, Omeisaurus, Apatosaurus, Baryonyx, Dimetrodon, Tyrannosaurus rex.

Future developments

In January 2009, Chester Zoo unveiled an ambitious £225 million plan that will see it transformed into the largest conservation, animal and leisure attraction of its kind in Europe. The project – given the working title Natural Vision – will involve a £90 million first phase which will include the only domed ecosystem in the United Kingdom. Called ‘Heart of Africa’, the bio-dome will be an African rainforest-themed sanctuary for a band of gorillas, a large troop of chimpanzees, okapi (rare giraffe-like creatures), and a wide variety of tropical birds, amphibians, reptiles, fishes and invertebrates, moving freely among lush vegetation. The first phase – planning permission for which will be sought later this year (2009) – will also include a 90-bed hotel, a conservation college, a key element of which is the ‘Futures’ education centre, and a revamped main entrance linking to a marina development on zoo land beside the Shropshire Union Canal. The rest of the Natural Vision project will be completed by 2018, thus creating one of the largest wildlife attractions in the world and providing a major boost to the Northwest economy. This will showcase and financially support the zoo’s national and international conservation work, which already spans 50 countries. The zoo currently occupies 50 hectares of land but owns a further 200. The completed Natural Vision project will cover 80 hectares including new access roads and parking. The project is the culmination of years of planning and design and is being carried out in conjunction with a number of agencies, notably including the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) which has provided funding to enable the project to progress to the planning stage. Realm of the Red Ape (expansion of the orangutan exhibit, opened May 2007) and Beginnings (redevelopment of the main entrance, opened Easter 2007) both form part of the "Natural Vision" project.

Membership and adoption

The zoo has a scheme whereby people can adopt an animal of their choice, they are also given two complimentary tickets to allow them to visit the animals. They can also become members which allows them to visit Chester and a range of other zoos across England free of charge for a year. Every three months, members and adopters receive Z magazine, which provides updates and information about what is happening at the zoo.

Television documentary

During summer 2007, television crews from Granada filmed at Chester for the documentary series Zoo Days, a behind the scenes look at the day-to-day running of the zoo, narrated by Jane Horrocks. British broadcast rights were sold to Five and the first 20-part series began airing on British terrestrial TV on 8 October 2007, transmitting on weekday evenings in a regular 6:30pm slot. A second 20-part series of Zoo Days was swiftly commissioned and began airing on 3 March 2008.[25] The third 20-part series was broadcast from Colchester Zoo, before returning to Chester for the fourth 20-part series on 10 November 2008.[26]

In February 2009, "The History Of Chester Zoo" was a contestant's chosen subject on Mastermind.



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  17. ^ "Elephants of the Asian Forest". Zoolex website. Retrieved 2007-06-13. 
  18. ^ "Spirit of the Jaguar". Zoolex website. Retrieved 2007-06-13. 
  19. ^ "New pad for the apes opens this weekend". Wirral Globe. 25 May 2007. 
  20. ^ "Mum's the word for orang-utan Emma". Retrieved 2008-06-19. 
  21. ^ "'Virgin births' for giant lizards". BBC News. 2006-12-20. Retrieved 2008-06-20. 
  22. ^ "Marc Ecko opens Asian Plains exhibit". Retrieved 2008-06-20. 
  23. ^ "Bank Holiday is a record". Wrexham Leader. 2008-05-12. Retrieved 2008-06-18. 
  24. ^ "Sumatran Tiger". IUCN Red List. Retrieved 2008-03-05. 
  25. ^ "Zoo Days returns to the small screen". Chester Zoo website. Retrieved 2008-03-05. 
  26. ^ "Zoo Days Series Three". 

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