Liverpool, United Kingdom
Who would have expected to discover one of the top zoos in the world 15 miles outside of Liverpool? A forty minute train ride from the city is all it takes to get to Chester Zoo, and 7000 of the world’s most fascinating creatures in some of the most innovative exhibits found in any zoo. The 110 acre facility cares for 400 different species which can be viewed not just on foot, but also from a monorail or by water! The “Waterbus” runs Easter to autumn and is a whole different way to view the animals.
There are various animal talks at the zoo every day, and monthly events that change from month to month at Chester Zoo. Enclosures and exhibits are constantly being improved and updated to offer not only the best viewing but the best environment for the animals. And as with most good zoos, conservation is an essential focus for the zoo, and some of the most critically endangered animals on the planet seen at few other zoos can be found here. The most unusual and rare is the largest of all Rhinoceros species, the greater one-horned Rhino native to India and Nepal. The young male Rhino, Baabuu, is part of the European Endangered Breeding Programme, and he is patiently awaiting the arrival of a female great one-horned Rhino from the San Diego Zoo. The hope is that the two will hit it off, and breed, increasing the limited gene pool of this very special and vulnerable species.
Other highly endangered animals in the same breeding programme include the Grevy’s Zebra, and the black rhino. In the same enclosure with the black rhinos, are other species that would share its habitat in the wild, including the Black Buck, and the Brow-antlered Deer. The black rhinos, a group of seven adults and two juveniles, can be found in the unique Tsavo exhibit. The zoo has had great success breeding the critically endangered rhinos (there are thought to be less than 400 left in the wild) because of a deep understanding of the temperament of the animals. Black rhinos are very shy, and too much exposure to the public would be detrimental to their well-being and successful breeding and so the interaction time is limited. Educating the public on the plight of black rhinos, and all rhinos, largely hunted illegally for their horns, is a key component to continuing efforts to bring them back from the brink of extinction.
A major focus of the Chester Zoo is conservation of the world’s jaguars, as human and animal encounters are proving dangerous for both parties. IN their native range in Central and South America, a large percentage of their natural range is now used for cattle, and thus conflicts between humans and animals have escalated. The largest jaguar enclosure in the world is home to five jaguars, including one black jaguar. Its design is unique because in addition to toys and space to keep them engaged, the large cats have access to both of their natural habitats-the rainforest and the Savannah. Chester Zoo has been part of the Jaguar Conservation Programme since 2000, and provides grants each year to related projects. Other big beautiful cats that make the zoo home are the Asiatic Lion and Sumatran Tiger, both of which there are less than 400 left in the wild, and the swift footed Cheetah, another endangered cat.
Other exhibits include “Islands in Danger”, the star of which are the Komodo dragons, the most intelligent and largest of all reptile species. Heated rocks near the glass viewing area help encourage the dragons to often relax in a location for close up viewing. When watching them swim, one can almost imagine them swimming between the islands of the Galapagos, using their tail for propulsion and maneuvering. “The Realm of the Great Ape” features two different species of Orangutan. Another visual delight is the Butterfly House, the largest enclosure of its kind in the UK. All in all, few zoos rival the collection of animals or the intricacies of the enclosures they call home found at the Chester Zoo.