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October 2, 2018

A curious thought and only satisfied when you know where to get one.

It is strange how a childhood fascination with Leviathans never leaves the imagination or the eager anticipation of a day at the Zoo.

As if to prove I have never grown up, retirement has given the opportunity to indulge and what better place than Essex’s own unique Colchester Zoo.

Formerly known as Stanway Hall Park Zoo, it was opened in 1963 by Frank and Helena Farrar sharing their passion for exotic animals with the public.

Living in Essex in the 1960’s turned out to be a an unexpected bonus as we now had our own zoo and animal lovers flocked to Colchester in their hundreds.That is one big yawn

Yes, one is an Owl and don’t I know it

Those early days and future plans gave an exciting uniqueness to the site as it was built on  the side of a series of undulating hills that had not seen many human footfalls let alone Elephants. It was muddy when it rained and required sturdy Wellington Boots with a Massey Ferguson Tractor heavy tyre tread to stop slipping back down the hill, not that it always worked, but did give an interesting day for those animals housed halfway up watching humans sliding past their enclosures back to base camp.

It was very early days and I was still in my teens for the number of family outings that cemented a deep life-time affection and attraction for a visit to Colchester.

Through the clouds of time and into the 1970s, memories of gasping in awe at the biggest Lion I had ever seen called Simba, and he was big? Then there were the Zeedonks. The clue is in the name, but the oddity drew the crowds to see the multi-coloured small equine creatures wondering if they were Donkeys or  Zebras. It was never  fully explained how it came about and for years I surmised someone had left the gate open.

Of course it was a lot more professional, but the public affection was instant and has never left the mindset of Essex folk as the Zoo with a human side.

Paying a visit in September 2018 was like a fun side return to the tractor-tread  wellies though only in my mind. The fifty plus years since the first days have seen an  transformation. No more mud but still the feeling and ambience that you are among friends, both human and animal The change has been phenomenal;  housed in state of the art buildings where every piece of information a person will ever need is easily available, the collection of species has grown in proportion to the careful planning linking numbers, species, housing and interest with echoes of Orwell’s Animal Farm where Conservation is the target.

Open throughout the year, the team have made every effort to accommodate answers and facilities for all interests with a remarkable variety of activities, not just handing out leaflets, but family based programmes dedicated to sharing knowledge, helping with conservation and making it enjoyable for all ages and sizes of family members.

It is an experience and everything you need to know is on their well presented website:

The background story in their own words. 

The Zoo Licensing Act in 1981 meant that all zoos needed to be licensed and inspected. Then owner, Frank Farrar knew that his zoo was in need of major improvements in order to gain a licence and so Colchester Zoo was put up for sale.

Dr Dominique Tropeano took over the zoo in March 1983 and invested in enclosure improvements, bringing the zoo back up to the standard required to gain its licence. More animals were brought into the collection, including two

of our resident elephants, Tanya and Zola.

A major development for Colchester Zoo came during the 1990’s with the purchase of an additional 20 acres of land to expand. This purchase enabled the build of Elephant Kingdom, Kingdom of the Wild and Edge of Africa.

The zoo faced its most critical time during the Foot and Mouth Crisis in 2001 when it was forced to close its gates to the public. Luckily, the zoo was able to reopen just in time for Easter and the local community supported the zoo by sending in donations. Without this support, the zoo may not have recovered.

Colchester Zoo is well known for its ground breaking enclosures. The zoo has won many awards for its enclosure development, animal welfare and conservation. One example of this is award-winning enclosure Playa Patagonia, the sealion exhibit developed in 2004, which was awarded a commendation for the best new enclosure by the Federation of Zoological Gardens of Great Britain and Ireland.

Pioneering technology has also been used in breeding management, which led to the birth of an African elephant calf in 2002. Kito was the first elephant to be born via artificial insemination in Britain and the first in the world to be conceived on the very first attempt at this process.

Colchester Zoo also helps to fund conservation projects in the wild, actively supporting a number of different organisations around the world, through its charity, Action for the Wild, which was set up in 1993 and achieved charitable status in 2004.

In 2005, Colchester Zoo also purchased three farms to develop the UmPhafa Private Nature Reserve in South Africa where zebra, rhino, giraffe and countless other animals have been released.

Colchester Zoo continues to grow and develop to meet the demands of the 21st century and strives to ensure that it leads the way in the fields of conservation, education and research.

Colchester Zoo is a zoological garden situated in Colchester, England. The zoo opened in 1963 and celebrated its 50th anniversary on 2 June 2013. It is home to many rare and endangered species, including big cats, primates and birds as well as a large number of invertebrates and fish species.

The zoo has its own charity Action for the Wild to assist projects worldwide. It provides both financial and technical assistance, and aims to raise awareness among local people in community conservation programmes, as well as supporting conservation research around the world.

From → Entertainment

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