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Colch­ester Zoo was first opened in June 1963. It was called Stan­way Hall Zoo Park and was owned by two zool­o­gists called Frank and Helena Far­rar. The Zoo was very small just 10 hectare and had a very small col­lec­tion of ani­mals rang­ing from Big cats to Kan­ga­roos. It was soon renamed Colch­ester Zoo. It was a con­ser­va­tion cen­tre then as it is now. Colch­ester Zoo was taken over in 1983 by the cur­rent own­ers (Angela and Dominique Tro­peano) who run the zoo as a fam­ily busi­ness and a pri­vate lim­ited com­pany (Colch­ester Zoo Ltd). They mod­ernised the Zoo into a pros­per­ing and renowned facil­ity. At that time the zoo received around 100,000 vis­i­tors a year. The zoo was a tight team with just 5 keep­ers and 5 other part time staff!, man­ag­ing 500 ani­mals. The zoo grounds over the last 37 years have increased from 10 to over 24 hectare. It employs now over 250 staff and have over 500,000 vis­i­tors a year.

In 1985 the ele­phants Tanya and Zola arrived to start the herd. Since their arrival, the herd has been added to and become a suc­cess­ful breed­ing group. Between 1988 and 1992 a num­ber of new enclo­sures were opened — the tigers in 1998, Edge of Africa area in 1990 and the Chimp House in 1992. When the new lion enclo­sure, Serengeti Plains opened in 1992, it was the largest in the coun­try for lions and let vis­i­tors get a spec­tac­u­lar view of the lions through the glass. The lions moved home again, in 2004, to Lion Rock. The old enclo­sure becom­ing home to Cherry Crowned Mangabeys. The Pen­guin Shores was opened in 1994. The com­plex housed the Zoo’s first group of Hum­boldt pen­guins. Thir­teen years later Inca Trail was opened which pro­vided an enclo­sure for a new group of pen­guins as well as another enclo­sure for spi­der mon­keys. In 1997 the new ele­phant com­plex, “Spirit of Africa” in April 1997, opened, which in 2002 saw the birth of Colch­ester Zoo’s first baby ele­phant, Kito. Fol­lowed by Jambo born in 2004. Late 2002 the sec­ond phase of Spirit of Africa, “King­dom of the Wild” was opened, pro­vid­ing home to zebra, ostrich, camels and rhino. It also saw the arrival of two new species: Giraffes and pygmy hippo. The new sealion enclo­sure, “Playa Patag­o­nia” was opened in 2003. With its 24m under­ground tun­nel, vis­i­tors can expe­ri­ence the sealions from a whole new per­spec­tive. In 2005 Komodo Drag­ons arrived at the zoo. It had been the Tropeano’s wish to have them at the Zoo when they took over in 1983. More than 20-​years later the dream was fulfilled.

The ani­mals habi­tats at Colch­ester Zoo are pre­sented in a num­ber of dif­fer­ent themed zones, like King­dom of the Wild, Lake­lands zone, Heights zone, Val­ley zone and Aquatic zone. One of the lat­est enclo­sure designed and built is the Orang­utan For­est. The enclo­sure is nat­u­ral­is­tic in design, encour­ag­ing this arbo­real pri­mate to climb up high. Rain­wa­ter col­lec­tion facil­i­ties have been incor­po­rated into the design of the build­ing allow­ing col­lected rain­wa­ter to then be used by the keep­ers to clean the enclo­sures and water the plants.

The rarest big cat and mam­mal in the col­lec­tion of Colch­ester zoo is the Amur Leop­ard with just 35 thought to be left in the wild! The new extended enclo­sure (“Leop­ards at Ussuri Falls”) for this crit­i­cally endan­gered ani­mal (IUCN red list) was opened in spring of 2010. As leop­ards are soli­tary in the wild, they have cre­ated sep­a­rate enclo­sures for the male and female leop­ard which includes an area to mix them dur­ing breed­ing sea­son, which is the only time in the wild that they would inter­act. This is a much improved home for their leop­ards, incor­po­rat­ing more space in a nat­ural envi­ron­ment, with lots of height and areas for climb­ing, plus bet­ter view­ing for the visitors.

In 1993 the zoo devel­oped the organ­i­sa­tion Action for the Wild in order to pro­tect endan­gered species in the wild. The organ­i­sa­tion con­tin­ues to aid con­ser­va­tion, research and edu­ca­tion projects. One of the first projects to receive sup­port was the Lion Tamarins of Brazil Fund. It was the first British zoo to set up it own reserve out in South Africa, which is pro­tect­ing endan­gered species in their nat­ural habi­tat. They had a sci­en­tific first with arti­fi­cial insem­i­na­tion of two female rhi­noc­er­oses, one in Budapest and one in Colch­ester, deliv­er­ing suc­cess­ful off­spring. This can have huge con­se­quences for conservation.

Colch­ester Zoo is the first zoo in the UK, and one of only a cou­ple in Europe to have suc­cess­fully bred four aard­vark babies; three of which have now become an active part of the breed­ing pro­gramme. The Zoo is the most suc­cess­ful zoo in UK in breed­ing Gelada Baboons and has the largest breed­ing group of Man­drills in the UK with over 25 Man­drills mak­ing up the troop it is the sec­ond largest group in Europe.

In 2001, the zoo faced one of its biggest tests when it had to close its gates to the pub­lic due to the foot and mouth cri­sis. The zoo was closed for just over a month and lost £250,000.

Colch­ester Zoo has become well known for its mod­ern, ground break­ing enclo­sures for its ani­mals. When design­ing a new enclo­sure, a num­ber of fac­tors have to be taken into account, includ­ing all the needs of the species that you are design­ing the enclo­sure for, the num­ber of ani­mals the enclo­sure will house, its wel­fare and safety. The needs of the vis­i­tor also need to be taken into account accord­ing to the web­site of Colch­ester zoo. So you should incor­po­rate cov­ered areas for wet days, max­imis­ing the poten­tial for ani­mal view­ing bal­anced with an animal’s require­ment for pri­vacy. As Colch­ester zoo does not receive any sub­si­dies what­so­ever, they rely on dona­tions and entrance fees entirely. This jus­ti­fies the need for meet­ing require­ments address­ing the dis­play of ani­mals. At least they are hon­est about it. Peo­ple want to see the ani­mals when they visit the zoo. Not every­body is as mad as me and wait for hours to see the lion come out and emerge from its hid­den den.

(Source: web­site Colch­ester Zoo; web­site BBC, Essex local his­tory, Zoo own­ers cel­e­brate 25 years, 03.04.2008; Wikipedia)

Goal: 7000 tigers in the wild

Tiger range countries map

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


about zoos and their mis­sion regard­ing breed­ing endan­gered species, nature con­ser­va­tion, bio­di­ver­sity and edu­ca­tion, which of course relates to the evo­lu­tion of species.
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