A multi-million pound project is taking shape at Blackpool Zoo at the end of what has been another record-breaking year.
The scheme, dubbed Project Elephant, is the zoo’s most ambitious and biggest ever single investment and the building, which is one of the UK’s largest indoor elephant facilities, is almost complete.
Work on the three-acre outdoor area is set to commence soon and the grand opening will take place as part of this year’s 45th anniversary celebrations.
Blackpool Zoo saw a 7% rise in visitor numbers and a 10% revenue increase throughout 2016 following an eventful year for residents.
More than 50 babies were born, ranging from a critically endangered Bactrian camel called Clyde to an adorable Californian sea lion. The zoo also welcomed a new aardvark called Aggie from Burgers Zoo in Holland.
Staff bid bon voyage to their two-year-old tiger cub twins this year as they set sail for a new life abroad. Radzi now resides at Zoo Santo Inacio in Portugal while Barney has made himself at home at La Bourbansais Zoo in Bretagne in France.
In addition to arrivals and departures, keepers at Blackpool Zoo successfully co-ordinated root canal surgery for Alyona, the 18-stone female tiger, who made a full and very fast recovery.
On the subject of big cats, Wallace and Khari were recognised as the only father and son coalition in the UK, catapulting their tiny pride to fame earlier this year.
Tens of thousands of pounds have also been raised by the attraction and have been divided between eight conservations projects across the world.
Finally, the Blackpool Zoo Education Academy was hailed top class after picking up an award for its work at the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) 50th anniversary celebrations.
Darren Webster, Managing Director at Blackpool Zoo, said: “It has been another extraordinary year here at Blackpool Zoo, with record numbers of people visiting us. Our keepers work day and night to look after our residents and 50 new babies is a wonderful achievement. Everyone was emotional when Radzi and Barney left the zoo, but we are keeping up to date with their progress and they are very happy in their new homes. Since breaking ground on our mammoth development in July, we have made excellent progress and now the building is almost complete, the sheer scale of the project can now be seen by all. This year marks the 45th anniversary of Jonny Morris cutting the ribbon to open the zoo to the public and the changes during that time have been astounding.”