OVER 15,000 people kick-started the festive season at Chester Zoo on the opening weekend of its annual Christmas event The Lanterns.

Visitors to the zoo’s winter illuminations were invited to explore nine specially created ‘worlds’ - featuring a snow machine, hungry penguin characters, plenty of festive food and drink and a dazzling selection of animal lanterns.

Welcoming 1.9 million visitors a year, Chester is the most visited zoo in the UK; home to over 15,000 animals and more than 500 different species, many of which are endangered in the wild.

With a little help from Father Christmas himself, the event at Chester Zoo raises additional funds to help support zoo’s work as a conservation charity, fighting to prevent extinction around the world.

The event runs until December 23 and the tickets can still be purchased at www.chesterzoo.org/lanterns