Located at Upton-by-Chester in Cheshire, Chester Zoo is one of Europe’s leading Zoos and one of the U.K’s biggest Zoos at 111 acres. Opened in 1931 by George Mottershead with just a few animals displayed in pens. After the Second World War Mottershead expanded the Zoo, building the enclosures with recycled wartime materials. He wanted the zoo to exhibit the animals without the traditional iron bar cages and after being influenced by the ideas of Carl Hagenbeck and Heine Hediger, he took their ideas for moats and ditches to contain the animals instead of iron bars. The chimpanzee islands are still the centrepiece at Chester Zoo today.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.
Chester Zoo was the first Zoo in the U.K. to successfully breed Asian Elephants in captivity. The zoo has a breeding herd of eight elephants, two recent calves born are Nayan (male, born 2010) and Jamilah (female, born 2011). The Elephant house is also used to house African elephants, rhinos,hippos and tapirs.
Spirit of the Jaguar 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 melanistic (black). 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.
Besides the jaguar, ChesterZoo has lions, tigers and cheetahs in it’s big cat collection.
Other animal enclosures and breeding programmes include the ‘Chimpanzee breeding centre’ opened in 1989 by Diana, Princess of Wales, and is home to 26 chimps, the largest colony in Europe.’Tsavo Rhino Experience’ the zoos black rhino exhibit, opened in 2003, has been a successful breeding programme and currently keeps 10 animals, there are also meerkats in a nearby enclosure. ‘Fruit Bat Forest‘ is the largest free-flying bat cave in Europe. ‘Monkey Islands‘ replaced the old monkey house is now home to four species of monkeys. ‘Miniature Monkeys‘is home to marmosets and tamarins ‘Bears of the Cloud Forest‘ houses a pair of spectacled bears and other south American animals. the enclosed is designed to mimic their natural habitat and the ‘Secret World of the Okapi’.
The zoo also houses Komodo dragons, tigers, sealions, peguins (who have their own pool and there is an underwater viewing window), otters,’Tropical Realm‘ Britain’s largest tropical house, with over 30 species of free-flying birds and a reptile collection,there is also a rare parrot breeding programme. Outdoors is the zoo’s largest aviary ‘Europe on the Edge‘ which houses a variety of European birds such as European Black and Griffon Vultures, the Black Stork, spoonbills, ibis and egrets. The ‘Asian Plains‘ and paddocks, is based around a mixed-species paddock featuring blackbuck, Burmese brow-antlered deer, Indian rhinos and cheetah.Other paddocks on the west side of the zoo support grazing herds of Grevy’s zebra, sitatunga, 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.
There are also camels, lemurs, kangaroos, flamingos, several varieties of owls and pelicans and many, many more, and with future developments constantly underway there will be more animals in breeding projects over the coming years and there is a lot or work being undertaken in international conservation work. The Zoo currently occupies 50 hectares of land but owns a further 200.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.Chester Zoo’s gardens are also famous for it’s variety of plants from around the world, which are the perfect backdrop to the zoo’s many exotic animals.
There is a 1 mile long monorail on an elevated track which runs through the zoo-park and gives excellent views over the animal enclosures, the full tour takes around 15 mins and there is a waterbus on a canal network within the the zoo in peak season. Mobility scooters and pushchairs are available near to the main entrance making the zoo accesable to everyone. There are several cafes, picnic areas, shops and children’s play areas within the zoo.
Official Website – www.chesterzoo.org
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