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His­tory

The Zoo was founded by George Mot­ter­shead, who already as a child decided that when he would be able to own a zoo it should have no bars. As he was upset see­ing large ani­mals in small cages in zoos at that time. In 1930, he brought his fam­ily to live in the Oak­field Manor and formed the orig­i­nal col­lec­tion of ani­mals from an ear­lier zoo at Shav­ing­ton. He was influ­enced by the ideas of Carl Hagen­beck, who invented the mod­ern zoo con­cept and by Heini Hedi­ger, a pio­neer of ethol­ogy. He kept the Zoo going through the Sec­ond World War, and rapid expan­sion fol­lowed after the war. George Mot­ter­shead died in 1978 aged 84 hav­ing realised his dream of a ‘zoo with­out bars’.

The North of Eng­land Zoo­log­i­cal Soci­ety, founded by Mot­ter­shead as well, has been run­ning Chester Zoo ever since the opening.

The Zoo started with the pur­chase of 11 acres of land together with Oak­field Manor Build­ing, The Sta­ble Block and Lodge in circa 1935. The Zoo wide estate now con­sists of approx­i­mately 500 acres of which 110 acres is the zoo­log­i­cal gar­dens and the wider estate mak­ing up the remain­ing 390 acres. Within the Zoo there are some 170 build­ings of vary­ing con­struc­tion used for a vari­ety of pur­poses. There is the exist­ing Oak­field Manor and Sta­ble Block that are listed with a preser­va­tion sta­tus. Other build­ings include cafe­te­rias, ani­mal exhibits, admin­is­tra­tion, main­te­nance, and shops, all vary­ing in size, and style and con­struc­tion. On the wider estate, the 400 acres is pri­mar­ily green­belt and the land is leased or ten­anted for agri­cul­tural pur­poses. On this land there are also three dis­used farms which are now used as stor­age and off show facil­i­ties. The Zoo also owns four­teen res­i­den­tial prop­er­ties orig­i­nally bought as accom­mo­da­tion for zoo employ­ees. There are also two large houses which have been con­verted into houses for mul­ti­ple occu­pancy which are used for short term lets for stu­dents and tem­po­rary staff.

Chester Zoo has a library sit­u­ated within Cedar House Admin­is­tra­tive Offices, with pub­lic access from the Zoo. The Library houses a fine col­lec­tion of zoo­log­i­cal, hor­ti­cul­tural, con­ser­va­tional and vet­eri­nary mate­r­ial with books, jour­nals, reports, stu­dent projects and con­fer­ence pro­ceed­ings. It is also the home of the Zoo archive col­lec­tion, which cov­ers the his­tory of Chester Zoo from 1932 to the present day

In the begin­ning at just nine acres most of the orig­i­nal Zoo’s col­lec­tion was housed in the sta­ble block and court­yard, build­ings which, along with the orig­i­nal Oak­field House, can still be seen within the Zoo grounds today. On the 110 acres now in use for the zoo­log­i­cal gar­den the vis­i­tor can expe­ri­ence sev­eral dif­fer­ent exhibits which empha­sises the Zoo’s ded­i­ca­tion to con­ser­va­tion and care for the ani­mals. Like the Twi­light Zone Bat Cave, Islands in Dan­ger exhibit gives you some feel­ing of the trop­i­cal rain­for­est, and then there is the Spirit of the Jaguar. In Sep­tem­ber 2001 Spirit of the Jaguar was offi­cially opened. This enclo­sure for the jaguars is to be believed the largest and best in the world. The wealth of inter­pre­ta­tion in the exhibit cer­tainly stim­u­lates the mind. It addresses some of the prob­lems these mag­nif­i­cent cats face and high­lights their impor­tance in eth­nic folk­lore. The build­ing is divided into two sec­tions one savan­nah and one rain­for­est. They want their vis­i­tors to expe­ri­ence the Jaguar’s dif­fer­ent habi­tats, and for the cats to feel at ease with their sur­round­ings. Both sec­tions have been land­scaped and planted to be sym­pa­thetic to the dif­fer­ent envi­ron­ments. The aim is of course that the jaguars thrive in these envi­ron­ments, which includes their psy­cho­log­i­cal well-​being, allow­ing nat­ural behav­iour to be displayed.

The Zoo cares for over 7,000 ani­mals, rep­re­sent­ing over 400 dif­fer­ent species. Con­ser­va­tion is at the heart of the Zoo and so around half of these are threat­ened. Because the Zoo is very con­ser­va­tion ori­en­tated, less atten­tion has been paid to its col­lec­tion over the years. Nev­er­the­less, it is still the largest zoo in Eng­land except for Lon­don Zoo.

(Source: web­site Chester Zoo; Zoo and Aquar­ium His­tory by V.N. Kisling)

Goal: 7000 tigers in the wild

Tiger range countries map

Tiger map” (CC BY 2.5) by Sander­son et al., 2006.

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