Revenues from the surge in visitors will continue to help the zoo’s worldwide conservation efforts and help boost the Cheshire and Liverpool city region economies by £50m a year. Tony McDonough reports
Chester Zoo has smashed through the 2m annual visitors barrier for the first time in its history during 2019.
And bosses at the zoo, already established as one of the UK’s top paid-for tourist attractions, say the extra revenues will ensure it continues to lead the fight to prevent extinction and protect the future of threatened species across the world.
New figures, released today, have revealed the wildlife conservation charity, already ranked as the UK’s most popular zoo, has broken every attendance record since opening its gates in 1931.
It is estimated Chester Zoo generates around £50m every year for the regional economy and, during its peak summer months, offers employment to up to 1,000 people. It has also seen a surge of 16,000 extra members this year, taking the total to more than 130,000.
Chester Zoo oversees carefully managed breeding programmes and its field projects in more than 30 countries worldwide. Key initiatives this year have included scientific research into habitats and diseases, animal welfare knowledge and technical expertise, as well as ground-breaking awareness campaigns.
Chief executive Mark Pilgrim said: “The fantastic support of our visitors and members is vital to our efforts to protect wildlife extinction globally. This year alone, we’ve helped to return five critically endangered Eastern black rhinos to an area where they had previously been extinct in Rwanda.
“Our team carried out the world’s first radio tagging of a giant pangolin, one of the world’s most trafficked animals, to help us gather data about their movements in Uganda.
“Thousands of rare, zoo-bred snails were flown to Bermuda and French Polynesia to be reintroduced to the wild and, at home in the UK, hundreds of endangered large heath butterflies have been bred at the zoo ready for release next year in Manchester’s mosslands.
“We also made Chester the world’s first ‘Sustainable Palm Oil City’ which has raised the profile of one of the biggest threats to the future of orangutans – the unsustainable palm oil industry.
“Meanwhile, our scientific breakthrough in EEHV research, a deadly virus that is decimating Asian elephant numbers globally, led to the first ever successful treatment of a calf at the zoo, while we’ve welcomed a host of new arrivals across the many carefully coordinated breeding programmes we play a vital part in.
“It’s absolutely crucial that more people sit up and take urgent notice of the threats facing wildlife and fully embrace the different ways that they can help make a difference. This is something our education programmes constantly champion. We can all come together and bring a halt to biodiversity loss.”