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Zoo'm along to Chester! Chester Zoo
Member Name: GillMN
Date: 04/08/09, updated on 05/08/09 (247 review reads)
Advantages: Fabulous day out. Educates effortlessly. Highly succesful conservation projects.
Disadvantages: Your feet get tired there is so much to see.
Parking is free and there is ample parking.
I have been a regular visitor to Chester Zoo since I was a child.
My Dad used to pack the two of us (and any other kid that was hanging about) into his old Morris Minor and do two circuits of our Close, windows down, singing "We're going to the Zoo! Zoo! Zoo! It was a Summer ritual!
The Zoo has changed enormously since those days. Conservation has become it's key focus and now of the 400 species it has, the majority are part of breeding programmes.
For me it manages to provide a superb day out whilst informing, educating and making huge contributions to the ongoing task of preserving the world's endangered species.
The zoo is large! It covers 110 acres and contains more than 7,000 animals.
When I was a child the cages for the big cats used to distress me, now the big cats roam in large paddocks or, in the case of the jaguars, in a purpose built huge 'house' with access to indoor and outdoor enclosures.
Last time I was in the Jaguar house I saw a little girl, nose to nose with a jaguar. Only the plate glass seperated them. She was about five and completely focussed on the huge creature. Her face was unforgettable to me, because she had fallen under the spell of his magnificence. That accessibility is part of the magic and the worth of this zoo.
Everywhere you go there is information. The message is brought home that these animals are not just objects to be goggled at and forgotten. They are an important part of the life of the world. Their world and ours. Facts and figures abound but in a way that makes learning natural and not forced. The keepers are an important part of this educative process and will answer questions willingly, seeming never to busy to help or inform.
The zoo is responsible for providing lessons and talks to over 20, 000 people a year, from school children to postgraduates. As a member I have been to some of their evening lectures and been held spellbound by the insights, humour and passion the guest lecturers provide about a huge variety of topics.
There are so many I will have to keep the descriptions short!
~~Realm of the Red Ape~~.
A fabulous Orang Utan house with a gym that would be the envy of an olympic team. I love it in here because the normal solitary creatures can have their own space, (where they are usually found playing with paper sacks!) or congregate for exercise on the huge climbing frames. Outside a large moat full of fish seperates the Orangs from us and they like to put on a show sometimes and have been known to throw clumps of soil at annoying visitors.
~~Elephants of the Asian Forest~~
The elephant enclosures are magnificient, incorporating a bathing pond and 'waterfall'. Many plants of the region are grown here and various other Asian small species are housed here along with the herd of Asian Elephants. The herd used to be mixed Asian and African elephants but for the sake of the succesful breeding programme they are just a single species now. Baby elephants being born are a huge event (no pun intended).
A few years ago the zoo and friends held it's breath, whilst one of the babies fought for it's life having swallowed a large pebble. Sadly, after massive efforts to save it by the zoo and surgeons the poor creature died. Watching the baby elephants play and mither the older members of the herd is an enduring joy to me. It's a credit to the zoo staff how many are born and succesfully reared.
This is a large area mostly devoted to rhinocerous. There are life size cut-outs of the creatures to show their size which is a bit of a jaw dropper. I like their mud baths the best. Watching them wandering about like sentient tanks makes me appreciate what a bad idea it would be to aggravate one of them!
~~Parrot Breeding Centre~~
This aea can deafen you with their calls, shouts and whistles, and blind you with the fabulous colouring. Most of the time though the parrots are given a lot of privacy but they will come out to have a look at you when they feel like it.
No, it's nothing to do with reading books about vampires! This is a building which houses bats. It takes a while for your eyes to get used to the dimness but when you do you will see that the vegetation and sometimes the air, is full of free flying bats. This house was opened ten years ago and it's a tribute to the zoo's conservation efforts. One of the species of bats which had dwindled to just 70 animals in the wild is now up to 58 strong, from a very small breeding group. A stream runs through the zone which houses some very odd looking fish.
~~Tsavo - Black Rhino Experience~~
A massive compound to the right of the main entrance. Buildings in this area resemble African dwellings. It is home to 7 black rhinos which are critically endangered in the wild. The zoo is pouring a lot of it's resources into trying to establish a succesful breeding programme for these animals. I hope they succeed, but looking at the animals I think it's a good job that they are short sighted or they would never fancy one another enough to breed!
~~Spirit of the Jaguar~~
Another favourite of mine. As far as is possible this area recreates a natural jungle and savannah habitat for it's jaguars. They are so beautiful to watch.
I was also fascinated to see a display of leaf cutter ants in here and their habitat is encased in glass with tunnels leading from the nest to the tree so that every stage of their activity can be observed.
I am not going to list any more of the major attractions, there are too many to do justice to. As you can imagine, 400 species and 7,000 animals would take a lot of describing!
As I said, it's big so wear comfy shoes! There are quite a few places to buy a snack and two good restaurants to get a more decent meal. Prices are a bit high but not exorbitant. There are inside and outside picnic areas if you want to bring your own food. There are lots of benches scattered about for when you want that much needed rest.
The gardens alone are worth visiting the zoo for. The variety and layout of the gardens are extraordinary and must take a huge amount of staff to maintain so well.
A river trip is a good way to look at the waterfowl but the access is tricky if you are physically disabled.
A monorail train takes you over many of the enclosures so you can rest your feet whilst having a different view of the animals. This costs £2.00 if I remember rightly and is fully wheelchair accessible. It's not big enough for mobility scooters though!
The paths are well maintained and there are lots of signs to help you find your favourite animals.
It is possible to see some of the animals being fed. When I was a kid I always wanted to throw some fish to the sea-lions. One day my dad had a word with the keeper and I was hoisted over the fence unceremoniously and handed a dead mackerel. I tried to throw it to the sea-lions but I was so excited it ended up somewhere in the bushes behind me! A big sea-lion charged past me to get to the fish and soaked me. I'm glad it did because I had wet myself with fear and nobody knew! (until now!) I don't suppose 'health and safety' rules would allow escapades like that anymore!) I was a soggy and happy little girl that day! (and I smelled of fish too!)
As you go in (or come out) of the zoo there is a great shop. Do not go in this shop if you are a fan of realistic cuddly toys! I could happily spend an hour just looking at the fantastic range of toy animals. I still long for a wolf I saw there once. (I know, I should grow up but they're so beautiful!) The range of goods in the shop is very good with very few tacky souvenirs and a lot of innovative stuff. You can even buy a pot of 'Lion Poo' to keep the cats out of your garden. If I was a cat, I'd certainly think twice before entering a garden that smelled of lions! The prices are not too horrendous and you get 20% off if you are a member of the zoo.
Which brings me to prices.
Children (3-15 years inclusive) £11.30
Infant (2 and under) Free
Family (two adults + two children) £55.00
These prices vary according to the time of the year. It is cheaper in the winter.
I usually take out an annual membership for £55.00 which enables me to visit free all year and gives me 20% concessions in the shop and cafes, access to behind the scenes activities and lectures, a magazine which is really interesting! Plus free entry to other zoos and attractions. £55.00 is a lot of money but you get a lot of value for that and it supports the zoo.
Membership or tickets for the zoo can be bought online and can make a great present for people or kids who are hard to buy for.
What else can I tell you? It has to be one of the best zoos in the country (If not the world!)
It is really serious about conservation and education.
The animals are kept in the best way that they can be given that they are in a zoo.
It is not too expensive for a very full day out.
If you are weird enough to get bored by animals, there are loads of other things to do! Pitch and putt, playgrounds, pottery painting, face painting, eating, spotting the flower varieties, (thousands of them!) sketching and painting, lectures, shopping, (please buy me that wolf!) boat rides and train rides. It really is a place for everyone.
If it rains there are very many covered or housed exhibits.
It is beautiful and it is fun!
A lot more information can be found here.
Summary: If you are going to go anywhere for a day out, go here!
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