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Colchester Zoo

Colchester, Essex, England
Natural sights
nature, zoo, landmark

Colchester Zoo is a zoological garden situated in Colchester, England. The zoo opened in 1963. It received 801,643 visits in 2011. It is home to many rare and endangered species, including big cats, primates and birds.

Colchester Zoo is supported by Action for the Wild, which assists conservation projects worldwide through both financial and technical assistance. The zoo celebrated its 50th anniversary on 2 June 2013.


Animal exhibits

The animals habitats at Colchester Zoo are presented in a number of different themed zones.

Butterfly Glade

Opened in spring 2015, Butterfly Glade is a walk through exhibit which is housed near Bears of the Rising Sun. It is home to many different species of butterflies, plants and flowers. It was opened in memory of Isobel Rose Parmenter who died in October 2014 from a rare disease called LCH.

Australian Rainbows

Opened in summer 2014, Australian Rainbows is an exhibit that previously housed the Wild about Animals theatre. Inside the building is a waterfall, a large pond and colourful gardens. Visitors are able to journey through an aviary of lorikeets, with the opportunity to feed a treat of nectar to these colourful birds.

Koi Niwa

Within this exhibit there are two large pools housing a variety of koi carp. There are also two filtration systems visible to visitors. The exhibit is set in the style of a typical Japanese garden with statues, ornaments and waterfalls.

Walking Giants

Walking Giants opened in the summer of 2012 and is a small complex, split into two sections. The complex houses three out of four of the world’s biggest tortoise species including Aldabra giant tortoise, Burmese mountain tortoise, and African spurred tortoise.

Lost Madagascar

Opened in Easter 2012, Lost Madagascar is a walk-through enclosure that is home to troops of ring-tailed lemurs and red-bellied lemurs. The exhibit can only be accessed by taking a ride on a small road train called the Lost Madagascar Express.

Otter Creek

Otter Creek was opened in August 2011 and houses a family of six smooth-coated otters.

Wilds of Asia

Wilds of Asia is a group of enclosures housing various different species from across Asia. Among the species on display in Wilds of Asia are pileated gibbons, red pandas, rhinoceros hornbill, binturongs, Burmese pythons and lion-tailed macaques.

Edge of Africa - Kingdom of the Wild

Edge of Africa is split into three sections. The first section is The Kingdom of the Wild multi-species complex, which houses several different African species. The second section is the Elephant Kingdom building, and the third section is home to groups of cheetahs, warthogs and red river hogs, as well as a pair of spotted hyenas and a troop of mandrills. The main Kingdom of the wild paddock houses reticulated giraffes, southern white rhinoceros, ostriches, zebras and greater kudu, while the indoor area features aardvarks, pygmy hippopotamus, patas monkeys and various species of African reptiles, invertebrates and fish, which include leopard tortoises. There is also an aviary, 'Vulture Valley' which is home to white-backed vultures and Ruppell's griffin vultures.

Edge of Africa - Elephant Kingdom

The Elephant Kingdom is the second section in the Edge of Africa zone, and is home to the zoo's herd of African elephants, a male named Tembo and three females named Opal, Zola and Tanya.

Out of Africa

This small area is home to the zoo's blue-eyed black lemurs and mantled guereza, and also features the old den of the zoo's spotted hyenas.

Playa Patagonia

Opened in August 2003, Playa Patagonia is home to an all-female group of five Patagonian sea lions named Atlanta, Milan, Winnipeg, Paris and Sydney. The enclosure also features the largest straight underwater tunnel in Europe, holding 500,000 gallons of water and with glass that is 10 millimetres thick.

Orangutan Forest

Orangutan Forest is home to two male orangutans. The younger of the two, named Tiga, is a pure-bred Bornean orang-utan, while the older one, named Rajang, is a hybrid of a Bornean and Sumatran orang-utan.

Dragons of Komodo

Dragons of Komodo is a large, indoor exhibit that is home to a breeding pair of Komodo dragons, a male named Telu and a female named Mutu. The enclosure is designed to mimic conditions in the wild, and includes a large pool with showers, as well as a glass roof that can be drawn back to allow in sunlight.

Tiger Taiga

Tiger Taiga is large complex home to a pair of Amur tigers, a male named Igor and a female named Anoushka. The viewing tunnel that runs through the enclosure leads viewers into the Nature Trail.

Lion Rock

Opened in April 2004, Lion Rock houses three African lions, a male named Bailey and two females named Malika and Naja. The indoor area of Lion Rock features enclosures housing fennec foxes and Asia Minor spiny mice.

Bears of the Rising Sun

This enclosure is home to a pair of sun bears, a male named Jo-Jo and a female named Srey-Ya. Both bears were given to the zoo by the Rare Species Conservation Centre in 2010, after being confiscated by government anti-poaching patrols in Cambodia.

Leopards at Ussuri Falls

Opened in February 2010, this enclosure houses a pair of Amur Leopards, a male named Sayan and a female named Milena.

Penguin Shores

Penguin Shores is home to a large colony of Humboldt penguins, as well as an aquarium containing various types of freshwater and coral reef fish.

Suricata Sands

Opened in May 2009, Suricata Sands houses a mob of thirteen meerkats, including a breeding pair named Robin and Pippa.

Worlds Apart

Opened in May 2008, Worlds Apart consists of six enclosures, which include an open enclosure home to rhinoceros iguanas, poison dart frogs, green and yellow anacondas and a walk-through small primate exhibit that houses emperor and cottontop tamarins.

Worlds Apart Walkthrough

The outdoor section of Worlds Apart. Among the animals on display are two-toed sloths, golden lion tamarins, silvery marmosets and southern tamandua.

Chimp World

Revamped in 2013, a new larger Chimp World houses a group of eight common chimpanzees, three males and five females. The dominant male of the troop is named Pippin.

Wallaby Walkabout

An Australia-themed walk-through enclosure that houses a group of Bennet's wallabies.

The Lakes

The Lakes holds a small collection of waterbirds such as Chilean flamingo and formerly Dalmatian pelican along with a large number of red-eared terrapins that live freely in the lakes.

Medellin Monkeys

The Medellin Monkeys enclosure is home to one of the main groups of Colombian black spider monkeys.

Heart of the Amazon

This complex is home to a large troop of common squirrel monkeys, but also features silver dollar, angelfish, green iguana, and a pair of red-backed bearded saki. The enclosures just outside of Heart of the Amazon were previously home to both black and brown bears but currently house one of the zoo's Geoffroy's cats and the troop of yellow-breasted capuchins.

Iguana Forest and South American Walkthrough

The former walkthrough near the old orangutan exhibit houses a group of golden lion tamarins, as well as emperor tamarins and white-headed marmosets. The adjoining Iguana Forest holds several green iguanas confiscated from airport customs, yellow-footed tortoise and North American box turtle. This walkthrough also previously housed the zoo's lesser Malayan chevrotain.

Familiar Friends (Outdoor area)

The outdoor inclosures are home to a family of pigs and a group of goats.

Inca Trail

This group of enclosures houses the zoos' second large group of Colombian black spider monkeys and a second group of Humboldt penguins along with an aviary home to scarlet ibises.

Call of the Wild

This exhibit is near the Wilds of Asia complex and as of December 2013 features three timber wolves. They can be viewed from the Lost Madagascar Express train, and also from the glass viewing areas.

Other species

Other species found in the zoo include giant anteater, collared mangabey, African wild dog and black-backed jackal.


Following a number of private previews in May, Frank and Helena Farrar officially opened Colchester Zoo (then called 'Stanway Hall Zoo Park') on 2 June 1963. The initial response to the zoo was very favourable and the Farrars became celebrated figures in the town of Colchester throughout the 1960s. The animal collection expanded rapidly throughout the decade: by 1970 it included, among many other species, giraffes, elephants, tigers, lions and orang-utans.

Throughout the 1970s the zoo went into decline. Visitors numbers dropped significantly, much of the zoo began to fall into a state of disrepair and some people began to call for the zoo to be shut.

Colchester Zoo was purchased in 1983 by the Farrars' niece, Angela Tropeano, and her husband, Dominique Tropeano. The Zoo Licensing Act 1981, which set new minimum standards for British zoos, came into force in 1984. The poor condition of Colchester Zoo raised questions about its continued viability under the new law, but the efforts of the Tropeano family to rebuild parts of the zoo in the 1980s allowed it to remain open.

In its years under the Tropeanos, Colchester Zoo has faced a number of further problems including the Great Storm of 1987 which damaged much of the park, and the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak which forced its temporary closure. Nevertheless, the zoo under the Tropeanos has enjoyed renewed success and a high reputation, principally as a result of the purchase of a twenty-acre plot of adjoining land in the early 1990s, on which was built improved elephant and giraffe housing along with many other new enclosures for African species such as mandrills and cheetahs.

As of 2013, the Tropeano family still owns Colchester Zoo. Angela Tropeano died in 2011. Her son Anthony Tropeano is now zoological director.

On Tuesday 26 November 2013, five of the six wolves escaped from its enclosure around 8 am. Zoo staff found the perimeter fence damaged even though it its regularly checked. One returned, another was shot with a tranquilizer and two were shot dead, by the zoo's marksman. The fifth wolf was later shot dead around 4 pm. Apparently zoo visitors were told there was a "medical emergency" rather than wolves on the loose. A staff member stated that tranquilisers would take too long to be effective.

Conservation efforts

Colchester Zoo's fundraising arm, Action for the Wild, was awarded charitable status in 2004, a decade after it was formed. Action for the Wild supports many independent conservation groups but also pursues its own projects, of which the most important has been the creation and maintenance of a new 4,000-hectare reserve in South Africa, known as UmPhafa Private Nature Reserve. It accommodates many species, including rhinoceros, impala, zebra and giraffe.

Notable former exhibits

White Tiger Valley

This exhibit used to house Sasha, the zoo's well-known and loved white tiger. Sasha died on 15 December 2010 aged 15. The exhibit underwent extensive work, and re-opened as Lost Madagascar at Easter 2012.

Hornbill Hill

Hornbill Hill was a steep and narrow pathway that featured enclosures for Waldrapp ibis, southern ground hornbill, black hornbill, red-billed blue magpie and at the top of the hill there is an enclosure that has previously held snow leopard, fossa, giant anteater and various New World monkeys and an African aviary that normally holds purple gallinule, hamerkop, Von der Decken's hornbill and curlew. There is also a small hidden enclosure for Geoffroy's cat. The Hornbill Hill aviaries, Geoffroy's cat enclosure and part of the Medellin Monkeys exhibit have all been demolished to make way for the new sun bear enclosure.

Future plans

The zoo is currently devising plans to build a brand new tropical walk-through exhibit which will bring over seven new species to Colchester Zoo. Including a brand new species of crocodile. The exhibit will be spread over two floors and will incorporate an underwater viewing tunnel in which visitors will be able to see crocodiles swim and feed above their heads, before coming out to see them basking around their outdoor pool on their heated rocks through three large glass windows. Chimp World will be redeveloped and will see an extension of the outdoor enclosure by double and a sustainable heating system will be put into the enclosure and high quality facilities for the chimps. The redevelopment will also see an improvement in their off show sleeping quarters, installation of a new roof and new toilet facilities for the visitors. This redevelopment is expected to be completed by the end of 2015.

Cultural references

In Television The third series of the Channel 5 show Zoo Days came from Colchester Zoo. This series was presented by former Blue Peter star Konnie Huq, and began transmission on 9 June and ran for 4 weeks.



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