The zoo, which is the most visited paid-for UK tourist attraction outside of London with 1.9m visitors a year, has unveiled its vision for the next decade and beyond. Tony McDonough reports
Threatened animal species such as Western lowland gorillas and pygmy hippos form part of a plan to transform Chester Zoo into a “world class showcase’ of animals and conservation during the next few years.
The zoo, the most visited paid-for UK attraction outside London with 1.9m visitors a year, has unveiled its vision for the next decade and beyond.
New developments will allow visitors to explore a huge grassland savannah and trek across treetop forest walkways.
Building on the success of the zoo’s Islands habitats, which first opened in 2015 to bring South East Asia to life in Cheshire, the remainder of the zoo will be transformed through the creation of large-scale themed zones.
From immersive forests to expansive grasslands, the zones will reflect the zoo’s vital conservation work in the field worldwide.
Chester, located just on the edge of Wirral, is already the most visited zoo in the UK and is home to more than 15,000 animals and over 500 different species, many of which are endangered in the wild.
It is also renowned for its conservation work all over the world.
By creating environments for the conservation of highly-threatened species not currently at the zoo, from pygmy hippos to Western lowland gorillas, new habitats will help the zoo make an even more positive impact on the living world.
It says the improvements will continue to allow the zoo to develop in the vision of its much loved founder George Mottershead by embodying his “always building” philosophy.
Dr Mark Pilgrim, the zoo’s chief executive, said: “The zoo is internationally recognised as a leading centre for animal conservation, education and science.
“Our vision is to evolve from a national success story into a truly world class showcase for the wonderful, yet often threatened wildlife, and fantastic, but fragile, habitats on Earth.
“As a beacon of excellence here in the north of England – we are creating an internationally renowned centre of the highest quality, providing a wide range of employment, education and economic benefits.
“At the same time the development will inspire millions to appreciate and treasure the rich and remarkable biodiversity of our planet.”
The proposed grasslands area will be inspired by a variety of African habitats – from scrublands to deserts – characterised by large, open landscape habitats containing multiple species.
A forests zone will be a dramatic experience for visitors, full of vertical layers with views not just from the ground but at a high level, too.