Colchester has been on my radar for a while now as it keeps cropping up in conversations with friends and seems to be highly rated by most. Home to elephants, tigers, lions, bears and penguins; all you can hope to see right?
But it has so much more than just the big five mentioned above! I managed to see four species that were on my wish list and spotted many more that caught my attention.
The only issue was that I forgot the memory card for my camera, so it was harder to get good photos than normal, however I still had my iPhone.
The first animal we came across (after grabbing a tea) was the Humboldt penguin! They were swimming and diving around their enclosure completely synchronised.
This pancake tortoise nearly alluded us. He looked incredible cosy/like he was plotting revenge (below).
We were quick lucky to spot some fantastic enrichment around the zoo that the keepers set out to stimulate the animals. The grey wolves enjoyed a scatter feed in their paddock with chunks of meat hidden in nooks, crannies and…wellies?
Next up were these guys, red crowned mangabeys:
I managed to catch a bit of the enrichment on video. Don’t get too excited but…it was a game of monkey Kerplunk! Whilst you’re on youtube also check out a surprisingly awesome slow mo of a Harris hawk I took during one of the animal displays.
One of the main attractions in the zoo is their huge Africa exhibit. There are two large paddocks, one is home to the African elephants and the other is a mixed species enclosure home to white rhinos, kudu, maneless zebra, cranes and ostriches.
When on our way round Chris and I noticed a few heads bobbing up and down behind a rock. On closer inspection we discovered a female ostrich laughing uncontrollably at her own joke whilst unfortunately being ignored by the rest of her group.
The awkwardness was palpable. We hastily walked away.
Apart from the giant African area all other exhibits are a mix of continents and taxa. Normally zoos house like for like, e.g. a reptile house or bugs exhibit, but Colchester mixes everything together.
In almost every new area we saw a Komodo dragon. It was amazing to see the largest lizard in the world in its various life stages: some were young/small enough to tolerate each other, another was in an exhibit on its own (possibly starting to mature) and one was massive.
The four animals on my wish list where such a treat to see. When we went to visit the Amur leopard Chris caught a glimpse of it disappearing into the undergrowth in its enclosure, such a shame. The geladas (large baboons with hair to die for) where amazing! However, the Himalayan rascals were too far away for my humble iPhone.
Whilst wondering around we happened to stumble across the fastest primate on the planet, patas monkeys! And this grainy image proves it! Although it may hurt your eyes.
Last but by no means least on my list for Colchester, was the mighty spotted hyena!
So…mighty… I think he had had a long day.
Before we left we walked towards the Amur leopard enclosure once again, turning the corner my breath was taken away. Walking towards us was a formidable animal.
One of the most critically endangered species on the planet, right in front of us. Estimates of their surviving wild population vary but are all under 100. The future for this big cat is looking bleak. I’m very happy that I was able to see one, I hope the importance of this animal is seen in other visitors too.