Sat 7 Feb 2016
Chester zoo is split into two ‘zoos’: East and West.
The first exhibit you will come to is ‘Elephants of the Asian Forest’. This is the zoo’s multi-million pound home for asian elephants, Indian hornbill and a range of other asian mammals, birds, reptiles and fish. Visitors wander up a forest path (with bird aviaries) before entering a lushly-planted house. The elephants are concealed and the visitors believe that they are viewing them through trees in the forest. The outdoor enclosure is adequate but could be larger. The elephants have a large pool with waterfall and a feeding wall.
West Zoo/East Zoo
After leaving the elephants, visitors have a choice of direction. For this review, I’ll be heading over a bridge into east zoo. As visitors head over this bridge, the zoo’s pair of Indian rhinos can be seen on the right which share an enclosure with blackbuck and brow-antlered deer. Continuing over the bridge, viewers come upon ‘Condor Cliffs’ which contain Andean condor and black vulture.
This aviary is very large and allows for natural flight and can be viewed from two levels. At the base of the aviary is an island which houses one of the two coati groups kept at the zoo. Adjacent to Condor Cliffs, the zoo is building a walk-through butterfly house. The Asian Steppe exhibit can also be seen after the bridge. This exhibit is home to Bactrian Camels and Onagers. There is also a gentle lemur enclosure in this area (they also have an island on the canal).
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Continuing over a second bridge and turning left, visitors will see the zoo’s herd of Congo buffalo and the Visayan Warty Pigs both in shady paddocks. There is a large ring-tail lemur island here as well. The largest group of chimps in the UK can be seen on a large heavily planted island with excellent climbing structures and a house which also allows for climbing.
Heading backwards, red river hogs can be seen on the right in a good enclosure which has grassy and muddy sections. The Okapi paddock is just beyond the river hog paddock. Walking along the okapi paddock, guests will arrive at the giraffe viewing section. The giraffes have a large paddock and special browse holders are placed near the viewing area. Visitors enter the giraffe house (which is basic but adequate) which leads into the okapi house named 'Secret World of the Okapi'. The okapi house contains a range of rare African forest rodents, fish and gaboon vipers.
Exiting the okapi house, visitors proceed to the ‘Tropical Realm’ which is a large humid building which contains the majority of the zoo’s reptile collection, a large bird collection and some amphibians and invertebrates. The reptiles, amphibians and inverts are kept on the left hand side of the building, whilst the birds are kept on the right. Notable enclosures include the large indoor and outdoor Tuatara vivarium, the brand new Philippine Crocodile pool and the Javan and Indian Hornbill aviaries (which used to be home to gorillas).
Exiting the tropical realm, visitors enter a room where they can see a group of Buffy-Headed Capuchin Monkeys, before continuing outside where they can see an outdoor island for the Capuchins, sand lizards, mallorcan midwife toads, Hyacinth Macaws and many other bird species.
Once leaving the tropical realm, the main thing dominating the scenery is ‘Spirit of the Jaguar’. This large building (which was funded by jaguar cars) is home to Jaguars as well as a supporting cast of South American reptiles, amphibians and fish. The building is split into 2 sections (savannah and forest) and this teaches visitors about the range of a Jaguar’s habitats. The jaguars also have two outdoor areas.
One of the highlights of Spirirt of the Jaguar is the colony of Leaf-Cutter ants which inhabit the forest section. Visitors observe the ants getting leaves or fruit from a platform before making there way across a branch into an artificial tree trunk where guests can see the ants in the nest.
Exiting ‘Spirit of the Jaguar’ visitors will immediately see the new stunning Orang-utan exhibit named ‘Realm of the Red ape’ for both Sumatran and Bornean Orangs. Heading up a timber ramp, guests will enter a canopy and look through windows into the Orang’s habitats. The Sumatran Orang-utans have currently have the majority of the new exhibit (2 new outside exhibits and 3 new indoor exhibits) whilst the Borneans occupy the adjoining old house and enclosure and 2 new netted enclosures.
The zoo is planning to build a new building for the Borneans once enough funds can be gathered. Also sharing the Orang’s new home is a range of Indonesian reptiles, mammals, birds and invertebrates. These include a reticulated python and a family group of Lar gibbons (which share with the Sumatran Orangs).
Exiting Realm of the Red Ape, visitors will see the zoo’s Chilean and Caribbean Flamingos, the excellent Humboldt penguin exhibit, the aquarium (which is in need of an refurbishment) and the Californian Sealion pool. The Sealion pool gets especially busy during feeding time.
In the next area, visitors can see the excellent Europe on the Edge aviary (which was converted from a waterbirds aviary and the former polar bear enclosure) and ‘Islands in Danger’. Islands in Danger is the great exhibit which is home to endangered island species such as Red Bird of Paradise, Tarictic Hornbills and Komodo Dragons. The Dragons also have their own extension named ‘Dragons in Danger’ which includes a second indoor area and a planted outdoor area. Attached to Islands in Danger is the bird corridor which contains some of the zoo’s avian collection.
Next to Europe on the Edge is the zoo’s Sumatran Tiger enclosure. This is heavily planted but could be larger. The ‘children’s zoo’ is also here, but guests are no longer allowed inside the pens. A popular exhibit in the zoo is ‘marmot mania’ where young guests can enter through tunnels before popping up in plastic bubbles in the prairie marmot exhibit. This allows children to mimic the marmot’s natural behaviour of tunnelling.
Next is the zoo’s quietest area which contains a number of owl aviaries for different species, a pool for asian short clawed otter, a bongo paddock, the mostly off-show parrot house, more bird aviaries, a crane aviary, an excellent red panda enclosure, a kangaroo enclosure, a cassowary pen, a yellow mongoose enclosure (these will be sharing with the river hogs soon), a pudu paddock and a bush dog enclosure. Nearby is the Asian Lion enclosure which is good and contains many established trees.
East Zoo/West Zoo
Recently a new bridge was constructed across the zoo’s canal which means the guests can go straight from the lions across the ruffed lemur island and they can also see the anoa on their island. Continuing straight on, visitors get an aerial view of the new cheetah exhibit before seeing the Philippine spotted deer enclosure. Getting off the new bridge, visitors can enter ‘The Twilight Zone’ which is a walk-through bat cave containing Rodrigues Fruit Bats, Seba’s short-tailed bats and Livingston’s fruit bats. There is also nocturnal fish, Madagascan hissing cockroaches and Turkish spiny mice in this house.
Exiting the twilight zone takes guests into the Andean forest themed zone. This is home to Brazilian Tapir, Capybara, Vicuna, Guanaco, Rhea, coati and Spectacled Bear.
The west zoo also contains a large number of paddocks which keep Grevy’s Zebra, Scimitar Horned Oryx, Gemsbok, Ostrich, Emu, Wallabies, Sitatunga, Phillipine Spotted Deer, Pere David’s Deer and Przewalski Horses. There is also a series of waterbird aviaries and a large pelican lake.
Monkey Islands is the zoo’s fantastic monkey enclosure. The monkeys kept here are Colombian Black spider Monkeys, Lion-Tailed Macaques, Mandrills and Sulawesi Macaques. The spider monkeys have an electric fenced enclosure, but all of the other species have access to large, heavily planted islands. The indoor areas are deep-littered with woodchips and there is a large range of enrichment for them. Nearby is ‘Miniature Monkeys’ which keeps Black Lion Tamarins, Pied Tamarins and Geoffrey's Marmosets.
The major zone in west zoo is ‘Tsavo’. This is where the zoo’s black rhinos are kept in excellent exhibits. Also in this area is a good meerkat exhibit, a Kafue Flats Lechwe paddock and a mixed warthog and mongoose exhibit. An aviary for ground hornbills will be built in this area as well as a themed walk-through aviary.
All in all it was an amazing experience for all!
Love animals love chester zoo!!
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