Islands, the largest development in UK zoo history, is a zoo experience unlike any other; taking you on your own expedition through six South East Asian islands and the immersive tropical environment of Monsoon Forest. A lot has happened since opening in 2015, including new arrivals to the zoo and a number of animal births.
Your expedition through Islands starts on the island of Panay…
…this island is home to the critically endangered Visayan warty pig; the rarest of all wild pigs – so we were thrilled to announce the birth of two piglets in April! The piglets are vitally important to a breeding programme which is looking to maintain a genetically viable population of the species in zoos around Europe.
The incredible southern cassowary can be found on Papua. These prehistoric looking birds have settled in well to their new home here on Islands – both of the cassowaries are currently together, which means we’re trying to breed them, as most of the time they would lead a completely solitary lifestyle. Watch this short interview with one of Chester Zoo’s bird keepers to find out more:
Another highlight from the past 12 months is the birth of a banteng calf, on the island of Bali. These amazing animals are unfortunately also at risk from extinction, so this new arrival provided a welcomed boost to the conservation of this endangered species.
Since moving into their new habitat on the island of Sulawesi, the family of Sulawesi macaques have settled in well. A new male was carefully introduced to the group of females shortly after their move and it didn’t take long for him to work his magic – we’ve recently celebrated our third macaque birth in Islands!
Monsoon Forest is the largest indoor zoo habitat in the UK, a tropical environment full of exotic plants of all shapes and sizes. Since opening, our horticulture and botany team have been working hard adding even more species of plants to the space. Not only do these plants help create an authentic experience, they’re also important in creating an enriched habitat for the animals and encourage natural behaviour. Read more from Chester Zoo’s curator of horticulture and botany here.
In the heart of Monsoon Forest is a free flight aviary full of beautiful birds. Zoe Sweetman, Chester Zoo bird keeper, tells us more:
There are 14 species of birds on Islands in total, with the majority of them found in Monsoon Forest. In the free flight aviary there are nine different types of bird for you to look out for. My personal favourite is the grosbeak starling – they’re so cheeky and noisy.
It’s a new habitat for the keepers to work in as well as the birds settling in, so we’re constantly learning new things and adapt to how the birds are behaving. We keep an eye on any nesting birds and check their numbers every day; this can take a while as we’d like to see every single bird every single day. But as Monsoon Forest is such a lovely place to be, I really don’t mind that it’s time consuming!
We’ve recently had a few birds breeding in Monsoon Forest, which is fantastic news as it shows they’ve settled into their new habitat really quickly. Some of the species that we’ve seen nesting are the emerald dove, the superb fruit dove, the fairy blue birds and we’ve also got the white-naped pheasant pigeon chicks that have recently hatched! This is incredibly exciting as they’re a threatened species in wild.
Take a look inside the Monsoon Forest and see what other unique and amazing animals and plants are waiting to be discovered here – from crocodiles, fish and aquatic snakes to lizards, stick insects, leeches and crabs!
It’s also home to the painted batagur, one of the world’s most endangered species of turtle, and a new species to the zoo too. In fact, we’re the only zoo in the UK to care for these turtles.
If you’re yet to discover Islands at Chester Zoo then start your expedition today. Islands will continue to grow and develop day-by-day making each visit different to the last one; find out what’s next for Islands at Chester Zoo, here.