A year to remember, from January through to December…

It’s been a historical year for Colchester Zoo as we celebrated turning 60 with a bang!

Over the course of the year, we have welcomed a ground-breaking, 1 million visitors through our doors; hosted brand-new events; worked with new supporters; developed new areas within the Zoo; said hello to new arrivals along with sad goodbyes to beloved individuals and produced exclusive birthday merchandise. With so much to remember, we rounded up our highlights from January to December!

Collaborations started in July 2022, with First Essex and the launch of a new Colchester Zoo wrapped bus, branded to mark the occasion. This collaboration tied in with helping not only to spread the word of our celebrations but also to promote the use of public transport to help lower our carbon footprint contributing to our green mission. We also worked very closely with Sainsbury’s Stanway to create a large 60th anniversary window display on the front of their store as well as visiting regularly with our Zoo Crew mascots.


In January, we launched our ‘Colchester Zoo Rocks’ project, where 81 (11,500 students) schools hand painted stones, which on return, were added to a special commemorative garden. This project couldn’t have happened without Silverton Aggregates and Long Rake Spar who kindly supplied approximately 12,000 Scottish Cobbles and 160 Cambrian Boulders.

As well as our ‘Colchester Zoo Rocks’ project, we also launched our Poem Competition, where the public could submit a poem about their memories of Colchester Zoo. The favourite poem was selected and later published within our Souvenir Guide.

On 13th January, we announced the birth of our 7th White Rhino calf!

We also started to introduce our 60th branded merchandise online and within our Outpost Gift Shop, starting with a limited-edition Zoo Pass, featuring Rajang who was the face of our historical year!


Our February Half Term celebrations began with the naming of a brand-new Zoo Crew Member! The name ‘Oren the Orangutan’ was chosen by the public and he was later revealed as part of our February Zoo Crew Celebrations trail!

Our ever-popular Top Trumps returned, and this time included historical animals that once lived at Colchester Zoo!

We also experienced our first loss of the year as we announced the passing of Sasha, our beloved Burmese Python on 1st February. Sasha was a much-loved character and is still greatly missed by the Animal Care Team. 


On 7th March 2023, we were honoured to have attended a reception at Colchester Castle where The King and The Queen Consort, celebrated Colchester’s recently awarded city status. Their Majesties heard from Zoo representatives about our successful White Rhino breeding programme, and unveiled the name of our newest calf, Dara. We also gifted Their Majesties an engraved camera trap which has since been placed in the grounds of Balmoral castle tracking wildlife. This was an extremely special moment and will be a highlight in the history of Colchester Zoo for years to come.


During April, our celebrations began to escalate! Not only did our EGG-stravaganza Easter take place, but we also launched our historical 60th Souvenir Book which not only shared memories from the past to the present, but also introduced a detailed vision for the future of Colchester Zoo!

On Easter Monday, Humboldt Penguins, Pepper and Chile hatched their first chick and their second chick soon followed with it hatching on the 13th April!

A 60th branded photo point was installed near the Zoo entrance, so visitors could photograph their special day at the Zoo.

Throughout the year, we worked with many local communities and at Easter, partnered with Intu Lakeside to create a series of educational videos for their large indoor screening area as well as an Easter Trail with facts about our animals.

Our African Animal Care Team welcomed the arrival of female Cheetah, Anika on 4th April from Vienna Zoo in Austria! We also celebrated Ape Awareness Month with a range of educational videos posted on social media covering topics such as conservation, diet, and identification!


May was a month full of celebration starting with our Coronation Celebration from 6th to 8th May which included a Royal Trail, parties throughout the day and the launch of our Royal Rhino adoption plaque!

On 17th May, our Animal Care Team welcomed a female Pileated Gibbon, Qiwen, from Zurich Zoo!

Just in time for the May Half Term, another exciting commemorative feature was installed within the Zoo grounds entrance! Our 60th light-up number was created and installed by our Maintenance Team to mark our momentous year!

Throughout our Zoobilee May Half Term, we celebrated every day with live performances on our Main Stage! Entertainment included Magic Iain, Samba Dancers, Marimba Music from Otto & The Mutapa Calling. PLUS, much more!

We also launched our very own Commemorative Hamper filled with a range of exclusive 60th memorabilia!


On 2nd June, we officially turned 60 and celebrated with a BIG birthday Bonanza! Not only was it a day filled with parties, dancing, and music, but we were also joined by BBC Essex radio presenter, Ben Fryer, who hosted his show live at the Zoo! Features included animal interactions, talking to visitors and listeners about their favourite Zoo memories and catching up with the staff. We were also joined by BBC Look East who chatted to members of our staff.  

The celebrations continued with our Education Team, winning not one, but two BIAZA Awards! Our Camera Trap Loan Scheme for Schools won a Gold BIAZA Award whilst our 2-month Work Experience Placement won a Silver BIAZA Award!

In June, we launched our first, Toast for Wildlife evenings! Corporate sponsors and local dignitaries were invited to attend this special evening with a tour of the Zoo, exclusive Animal Experiences and presentations from Zoo Directors which included the future vision and introduced Colchester Zoological Society.

On 3rd June, we were saddened to announce that our oldest Aardvark at the Zoo and in Europe passed away at the age of 32. Afer is sadly missed by our Animal Care Team.


We kick started our summer celebrations with live performances from local production company, Jammy Creative Studios along with a whole host of other activities including, meet and greets with our Zoo Crew, Dino Puppets and BRAND-NEW Exploratorium. We were also joined by local organisations, including Essex Library Service, Essex Wildlife Trust and Essex Fire and Water Safety.


On selected evenings throughout the summer, we remained open until 8:30pm for our Summer Late Nights! This later opening included additional evening performances from the Wild Vibe Crew.

We also welcomed some BIG new arrivals as construction work began on the old displays lawn. Due to launch in Spring 2024, this new area, Dinosaur Realms, will include a range of animatronic dinosaurs, including a Brachiosaurus that stands just under 5m tall.

On 11th August, we were delighted to receive the TripAdvisor 2023 Travellers’ Choice award! The coveted award celebrates businesses that have consistently received great traveller reviews on TripAdvisor over the last 12 months.

Our private nature reserve, UmPhafa, was lucky enough to receive a donation of £2,000.00 from the UK to put towards some vital Field Ranger equipment. 

On 23rd August, we were deeply saddened to announce the passing of our beloved Amur Tiger, Anouska at the age of 19. Anoushka was a huge part of the Colchester Zoo family and is deeply missed by both staff and visitors.


Throughout September, we attended local charity events such as Invasion Colchester and the Anti Loo Roll Festival in Colchester Castle Park. We also supported the Cambridge Standing Tall Charity campaign by providing resources for their learning pack.

On 22nd September, we announced the sad passing of another long-standing resident of 22yrs, Freddy the Pygmy Hippo who is still deeply missed from Hippo Cove.

On 23rd September, we celebrated World Rhino Day and Elephant Appreciation Day with a range of activities taking place at our outdoor paddocks. Visitors played education games, explored artefacts and spoke to keepers.


Our Trail of Terror event returned along with our award-winning daytime event, Shriek Week.

On 3rd October, we were delighted to welcome the return of Goeldi’s Monkeys after 8 years, followed by the arrival of two Aardvarks on 19th October!

We celebrated World Lemur Day on 27th October on social media, and at the Zoo, visitors were able to explore artefacts, find out more about Lemur diets, discover more about enrichment activities and take part in our ‘Guess the Lemur’ sounds game!

We were shortlisted for the Great British Wildlife Restoration competition; a new one-off award scheme that recognises the incredible work being done to restore native species in the country. We are proud to be recognised for our Fisher’s Estuarine Moth project which focuses on the breeding and release of the species into newly created habitat sites around Essex.


On 17th November, we launched our very first Christmas advert! Working with a local production company, Deadline Communications, we developed an advert that showcased Christmas time at the Zoo. 

Our biggest Black Friday sale went live on 22nd November, with reductions and discounts across a range of selected products online raising vital funds for the Zoo.

At the end of the month, our Magic of Christmas event started and families were able to enjoy a festive day out, as well as book a Santa Experience ticket to receive their very own ‘Spirit the White Tiger’ toy which was featured within our Christmas advert.

On a misty morning on 2nd November 2023, a herd of African Buffalo arrived at the UmPhafa Private Nature Reserve!


Our Reimagined Santa Experience continued as we drew closer to Christmas day, and included brand new, state of the art, technology! With the year coming to an end, our popular Enchanted Trail of Light evenings returned and the zoo sparkled to life after Zoo opening hours.

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