Chester Zoo Facts

Located in Upton-by-Chester in Cheshire, Chester Zoo has been open since 1931, and it is the UK’s largest zoo by area, covering 130 acres.

Facts About Chester Zoo

  • George Mottershead, a keen collector of reptiles and insects, was inspired by a childhood trip to Belle Vue Zoo in Manchester to open a zoo of his own. He purchased Oakfield Manor in Upton-by-Chester in 1930, and Chester Zoo opened on 10 June 1931.
  • Chester Zoo expanded after the end of World War 2, but because building materials and resources were still in short supply, creative solutions had to be sought. For example, the 1950 polar bear exhibit was created from recycled pillboxes and concrete roadblocks.
  • Goerge Mottershead did not want Chester Zoo to resemble a traditional Victorian zoo with obvious bars and enclosures. Instead, he was influenced by Carl Hagenbeck who pioneered modern zoo enclosure design, incorporating moats and ditches in order to reduce the need for bars.
  • George Mottershead died in 1978 at the age of 84.
  • A fire broke out at the zoo in 2018. It was caused by an electrical fault, and the ensuing blaze was attended by 15 fire crews. One visitor was treated for smoke inhalation, and several fish, insects, and birds lost their lives.
  • The Chester Zoo monorail transported visitors around the park from 1991 to 2019. It was closed because it was no longer reliable, and its route covered less than half of the modern-day zoo.
  • Chester Zoo is home to more than 20,000 individual living creatures, and more than 700 different species of mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, amphibians, and invertebrates.
  • Chester Zoo was the first zoo outside of New Zealand to breed a tuatara (a type of lizard only found in New Zealand).
  • The Zoo Days documentary TV series was filmed at Chester Zoo in 2007. It was narrated by Jane Horrocks. Our Zoo, a six-part documentary series, told the story of George Mottershead and the founding of Chester Zoo. It was broadcast in 2014 and was watched by more than 5 million people.
  • Some of the animals housed at Chester Zoo include black rhinos, capybara, chimpanzees, cheetahs, giraffes, lions, red pandas, antelope, sun bears, tigers, warthogs, and ring-tailed lemurs, to name just a few.
  • More than 2 million people visited the zoo in 2019.
  • Chester Zoo is divided into different areas and regions, including the House of Sumatra, Monsoon Forest, Madagascar, Spirit of the Jaguar, Latin American Wetland Aviary, Realm of the Red Ape, Fruit Bat Forest, Tropical Realm, the Islands, the Nature Reserve.
  • In 1937 Chester’s Dawn the mandrill was the first mandrill to be born in captivity in the UK. In 1939, the UK’s first griffin vulture chick was born at Chester Zoo.