Attractions industry news

22 Jan 2019

Major openings planned for Chester Zoo in 2019

Walking with ring-tailed lemurs and seeing endangered Asiatic lions in a specially-developed new habitat are among the new experiences planned for Chester Zoo in 2019, as it continues with its multi-year, multi-million-pound expansion masterplan.

The zoo has announced a number of new features set to debut this year, which include a new Madagascar zone from Q2 2019, with an immersive forest habitat where rare lemurs and the fossa – Madagascar’s largest carnivore – live. Visitors will be able to take an expedition through part of this forest, though presumably not that part inhabited by the fossa.

In Q3, an expansive new habitat for Chester Zoo’s Asiatic lions will open. This has been inspired by the dry forest and savannah habitats of Gir National Park in India – the only place in the world where Asiatic lions still range free, with fewer than 500 left in the wild. Chester Zoo is caring for these lions as part of a European endangered species breeding programme. Raised earth hilltop viewing points will give the lions the ability to survey their Savannah and there will be heated rocks, a water hole and a sandy beach area.

The investment is part of a major long-term plan to transform the zoo into spectacular zones, inspired by the global regions where the zoo’s conservationists work. The developments are set to continue until 2030, and could also include a new restaurant and ride experiences.

Further temporary additions to the attractions at the zoo in 2019 are an exhibition of 12 life-sized big cats made from Lego, from mid-February until the end of April, and then from May to September there will be an exhibition of enormous, life-sized, animatronic predators, these being long extinct beasts spanning 200 million years of history, including dinosaurs, a giant bear and monsters of the deep.

Jamie Christon, chief operating officer at Chester Zoo, said that 2019 was set to be a special year, with the new habitats helping the zoo’s conservation work.

"As an educational charity, it is vital that we also continue to engage visitors in this mission. We hope to bring visitors closer to the animals than ever before by giving them the chance to walk with lemurs, taking an expedition right into the heart of the forest, just as you can do in the wilds of Madagascar," he said.

"People will not forget this experience. By inspiring a life-long connection to wildlife, we hope to create the conservationists of the future."

Chester Zoo is one of the UK’s largest zoos and one of the UK’s most visited tourist attractions outside London, attracting 1.9 million visitors in 2016. In 2017 it announced a £100m (US$129.1m, €113.6m) plan to redevelop 100 acres (405,000sq m) of its existing site into grassland and forest areas. In 2018 it drew more visitors than ever before but suffered a major fire in December 2018 that destroyed much of the roof covering its Monsoon Forest area.

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