A HOST of furry and feathered friends are finding their feet in their new homes at Chester Zoo.
The award-winning attraction has unveiled new habitats for sun bears, Malayan tapirs and Asian songbirds.
It has added the huge new animal habitats to its £40 million Islands zone – already the largest zoological development in the UK – which features animal species native to South-East Asia.
The zoo’s two sun bears, Milli and Toni, who were rescued from Cambodia after their mothers were killed by poachers and they were found as mistreated pets, are among the individual animals with new South-East Asian habitats.
Their new area features lush trees for the bears to climb and forage for food, a stream and behind the scenes a state-of-the-art area for cubs.
An impressive Malayan tapir exhibit, features both outdoor and indoor pools while offering stunning viewing opportunities for visitors to enjoy a unique perspective of the animals.
The new indoor and outdoor area for visitors includes a walkthrough bird aviary, filled with bird song, dense planting, streams and waterfalls as birds fly freely.
It brings together a whole host of Asian songbirds such as Asian fairy-bluebirds, Sumatran laughing thrush and the critically endangered Javan green magpie – all being pushed closer to extinction as a result of the illegal wildlife trade.
It is the first time the Javan green magpie – one of the world’s most endangered species – has gone on display to the public anywhere in the world.
The zoo initially brought six pairs into its breeding programme in 2015 in a last-gasp attempt to save the species from extinction in the wild, a young pair bred at the zoo will be taking up residence in the new aviary.
Mike Jordan, collections director at Chester Zoo, said: “Islands has really helped us raise the profile of some lesser-known species here at the zoo and driven a huge interest towards animals that are often overlooked.
“We want to throw a spotlight on even more species and give visitors the opportunity to learn more and help make a difference too.
“Sun bears are one of the world’s rarest species of bear, songbirds across Asia are highly threatened by the illegal wildlife trade and Malayan tapirs often, like so many other species in South-East Asia, fall victim to habitat loss.”
The new area continues the ‘always building’ philosophy of the zoo’s founder George Mottershead, 85 years after he created the UK’s first zoo without bars centred on animal wellbeing and conservation.
The zoo’s Islands habitat brings conservation to life through detailed recreations of areas in South-East Asia, taking visitors on an expedition as they walk over bridges, travel in boats and see buildings architecturally identical to those found on the islands of Panay, Papua, Sumba, Bali, Sumatra and Sulawesi.
Jamie Christon, chief operating officer at Chester Zoo, said: “These stunning new habitats will not only provide first class welfare for the animals here in the zoo, they will also offer visitors a wonderful experience.
“It’s an incredible addition to our 125 acres of zoological gardens.
“We invite everyone to become explorers and take their own expedition through these South East Asian Islands, discovering some of the world’s most remarkable species in huge, specially created habitats. ”
The new sun bear, songbird and tapir habitats in Chester Zoo’s Islands area opened to visitors on Tuesday.
See full story in the Chester Leader