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Ever since I was a little girl I have loved the zoo

By Danielle Lightfoot

I enjoyed the Our Zoo story on TV last year and I have always loved Chester Zoo so I wanted to share my story.

Ever since I was a little girl I have loved animals, particularly giraffes and of course the zoo. I was a junior member of Chester Zoo and always visited taking special interest in the giraffe enclosure.

I joined the Blue Peter vote to name the first baby female Asian elephant to be born in UK, Karha and when baby Bentley joined the giraffes to proud mum and dad Samara and Cormac I was very excited!

I used to read the junior magazine avidly and when I read about the opportunity to join the keepers for a day I could barely contain my excitement. Not long after I received a letter to have an operation at Alder Hey which coincided with the day with a keeper. I was crushed.

My mum had other ideas and rang the zoo to see if anything could be done. To my joy they agreed that I could visit and meet the giraffe keeper when I was home.

The day finally came and it was all I dreamed of and more. Mike the keeper was brilliant telling me all about the giraffes what the keepers do each day and all their different characteristics and we got ready to feed the giraffes.

Soon we went round to front of the enclosure with the food and the giraffes came over to feed. Mike continued to tell me about the giraffes and I couldn't believe how close we were. Then Mike invited me over to the giraffes they had so far been calm and happy with our presence.

We approached the male Cormac as they are less nervous than the females and I got to stroke him! I couldn't believe it! He continued to eat happily. Bentley had discovered he could run and was making the most if the outside space which was lovely to see. This is when the photo was taken.

I have never forgotten this trip and continued to visit the zoo every year.

Last year I became an adopter of the giraffes and Kanzi was born and my boyfriend bought me feeding the giraffes as a treat. The day was once again perfect I learnt all about the current giraffes, their likes and dislikes and even the babies Kanzi and Milly came over to say hello.

These photos attached, taken about 17 years apart, show just how much I love the zoo and continue to support it.

I hope one day to see giraffes in the wild but I will always visit the zoo I'm now able to bring friends and their children and watch them enjoy it just as I did.

All the changes I have seen in my life time have most importantly brought improvements to the life of the animals as well as bringing joy to the visitors.

I look forward to many more years visiting your superb zoo and supporting both the zoo itself and important conservation work here and abroad.

Keep up the good work!
Thank you Chester Zoo.

See more: Mammals, Special Zoo Moments, Staff