29 Dec 2016

We’ve taken PLAY! seriously! A lot of research and care has gone into creating the new space in the zoo and it’s really important to us to ensure we’re always developing, not only to enhance the experience for you but to also create spaces for our precious local wildlife.


The space has been transformed into a more wildlife-friendly haven; more plants and trees have been brought in, and once established will make great homes and food sources for a wide range of animals – including birds and bugs!


The behavior of play is really important to people and wildlife and has a big impact on development when we’re young; it’s a great way to learn and communicate but it’s also great for our wellbeing, which is why we want to encourage even more of it at Chester Zoo. Plus we believe you’re never too old to participate!

Discover more about the science of play and the importance of this type of behavior in wildlife here.

On top of the new Madagascar habitat, we’ve have an army of PLAY! champions that are ready to help you join in and make the most of the space! We caught up with one of them, zoo ranger Phil Blackburn, to tell us more:

To become a PLAY! champion you need a sense of adventure and a good sense of fun! So earlier in the year myself and a number of other staff from other teams, were trained by an external company who specialise in playful behaviour. I thought I knew what play was but we were taught that the scope for play is huge. It can be frivolous – it doesn’t have to have a reason, it just has to be enjoyable in some way and can happen anywhere, you just have to open yourself up to playfulness. 


“If you think about adults going around the zoo, you may not think they are engaging in play but a simple thing of a mum waving her arms to a toddler is all part of it.  As PLAY! champions we are creating environments where the main rules are…there are no rules!

“We’ve created lots of activities for you to participate in as you explore the zoo so you can leap like a lemur, balance like a gibbon or stomp like a rhino. There are tonnes of fun stuff you can do and you can find out more about the exciting things we’ve created around the zoo by downloading the play map here.

“We’ve been conducting adventure stories and an interactive show where people get the opportunity to dress up with a Madagascan theme.  

“What I love is that when we are encouraging play we are also encouraging people to learn.

“It’s easier to engage people if they are having fun so we use playfulness as a tool to connect to visitors to deliver conservation messages all at the same time. So one of the things we do is conduct a frog sack race and at the same time we teach people about frog conservation. My personal favorite is playing ‘What time is it Mr Wolf?’. Kids love this as it’s got an element of jeopardy and it’s a great way to teach people about predators.

Throughout summer Phil, along with other PLAY champions, will be at basecamp in the new Madagascar play area. We look forward to you joining in the fun! Discover more about the space and what activities you can get involved in at the zoo, here.