Lions and tigers and bears – oh my! These are just some of the animals that have called Colchester Zoo home. An important slice of Essex’s animal history, next year will see the zoo celebrate an impressive 60 years since it first opened. By Mica Bale.

With more than 180 species to see spread across acres of wonderfully adapted enclosures, Colchester Zoo was originally opened as Stan­way Hall Zoo Park in the summer of 1963. The zoo was created by zoologists Frank and Helena Far­rar, and conservation has been at its heart since its inception.

When the Essex attraction opened, it was a small affair in comparison to the zoo we see today. That being said, its 25 acres was still impressive, and certainly the opportunity to see the lions and kangaroos would have been a fascinating insight into the natural world. This was a time when exotic animals from far-flung places could only be seen in books or occasionally on film with limited quality. No doubt many people born and bred in Essex today have wonderful family stories all about their visit to what would become Colchester Zoo.

Great British Life: GiraffeGiraffe (Image: Tom Smith)

Of course, Frank and Helena had a vision, one that would see Stanway Zoo become one of the country’s leading conservation zones and, as a matter of fact, that vision expanded considerably with Helena herself. She, along with her husband, had realised a lifelong passion when purchasing the Stanway Hall Estate, opening the zoo and working to conserve rare species. Additionally, Helena took over the important role of the zoo’s curator, meaning that she became the first female curator in Europe.

The vision did not end there though. Twenty years later in 1983 it was time for Frank and Helena to pass on the baton to the next caretakers of the zoo when the Tropeano family took over.

The Tropeano family continue to own the zoo and have expanded the exhibits considerably. Reportedly in 1983 the zoo comprised 500 animals, as well as 40 acres of land and a 400-year-old mansion to boot! The following years saw great improvements with new animals and conservation projects being announced.

Great British Life: LorikeetLorikeet (Image: Conor Brill)

In recent years, the zoo’s charity Action for Wild was born, which was designed to help protect endangered species in their natural habitats. Colchester Zoo also plays an important role in breeding endangered species (in association with the European Endangered Species Programme), as well as in researching to better understand the many species that call Colchester home.

Today, Colchester Zoo showcases more than 180 species across 60 acres of custom-built enclosures. From gelada baboons, the last surviving species of grass-grazing primates, to the Edge of Africa zone, which features such Savannah-loving animals as cheetahs, red river hogs and hyenas, Colchester Zoo has plenty to see whatever your favourite creature. Don’t forget to visit all the animals that live in the zoo’s different zones, from the Wilds of Asia and Inca Trail to World of Wings and Elephant Kingdom.

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