2023 is set to be a BIG year for Colchester Zoo as it celebrates its 60th anniversary. The zoo is hosting a number of celebrations throughout the year, including introducing some exciting new arrivals and a special party on the 2nd June, to mark the zoo’s official birthday!

It doesn’t seem 10 years ago since we celebrated our 50th birthday with our Stand Tall campaign where we placed a number of giraffe sculptures around Essex to mark the occasion! Our 60th birthday has come around so quickly and so much has happened in the last decade!

Fast forward 60 years from when Colchester Zoo first opened its doors on 2nd June 1963, the site has since developed into 60 acres of beautiful parkland and lakes, and is now home to over 180 different species, including critically endangered Amur leopards, Black and white ruffed lemurs, and Bornean orangutans. To help towards the zoo’s mission, in 2004, Colchester Zoo’s Action for the Wild gained its charitable status, helping to fund conservation projects worldwide, including Colchester Zoo’s very own South African private nature reserve, UmPhafa, which was established in 2005.

Over the years, Colchester Zoo has been home to many iconic species, but in 2018 we were left devastated by the loss of one of our oldest residents, Rajang the Orangutan. Not only will we be celebrating 60 years of Colchester Zoo, but also our dearest friend, Rajang, who is now embedded in the history of Colchester Zoo since arriving in 1980. Rajang would have celebrated his 55th birthday in 2023 on the 14th June. He was a firm favourite amongst generations of visitors and will be at the forefront of our Zoobilee birthday campaign!

Bornean orangutans are classed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, so we are proud to remember Rajang, as well as raise awareness of our current orangutan residents, Tiga, Mali and Tatau, as part of our 60th celebrations. This will help to highlight the conservation of this incredible species and the ecological impact the world is currently facing.

A whole lot of history… In 1963, Colchester Zoo was first established by Zoologists Frank and Helena Farrah in the grounds of Stanway Hall Park. The site was around 25 acres in size and contained a small collection of animals ranging from lions to kangaroos. The purchase of the Stanway Hall Estate was the realisation of a lifetime’s ambition for the owners. Helena Farrah acted as the Zoo curator during this period, becoming the first female curator in Europe. In 1983, Colchester Zoo changed hands and was taken over by the present owners, the Tropeano family. Therefore 2023 also marks 40 years with the current owners.

Although officially Colchester Zoo doesn’t turn 60 until 2nd June, we have decided to make 2023 an incredible year of celebration, highlighting the vital work that has taken place over the last 60 years and the looking ahead to the future. Throughout 2023, we will be celebrating the history of Colchester Zoo with a range of special birthday events and exclusive merchandise, including a limited-edition print of Rajang. We also have some exciting new arrivals to introduce you to – watch this space!

We can’t wait to share our Zoobilee with you and for you to be a part of the Colchester Zoo celebrations. 

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