There’s another exciting year in the pipeline here at Blackpool Zoo as management reflect on an incredible 2018, which included highs such as the grand opening of its largest ever single investment, some very special new arrivals and record visitor numbers!
The monumental 12 months started on a mammoth high with the arrival of two elephants from Twycross Zoo, who took up residence in a brand new, purpose built £5million home.
In February management unveiled the name of the facility as Base Camp, which is at the heart of every aspect of Project Elephant – Blackpool Zoo’s long term commitment to the magnificent species.
Just weeks later, over 350 guests attended the launch of Project Elephant’s Base Camp, which combines the UK's largest indoor elephant house with a huge outdoor habitat and an immersive, themed visitor experience through Asia.
Elsewhere in the zoo in April, as the world watched and waited for the arrival of the royal baby, keepers were heralding their own special delivery.
A tiny, double humped Bactrian camel calf arrived on the same day as the little prince and within minutes of the baby being named the zoo announced they would also be calling their new arrival Louis in honour of the momentous occasion.
Little did they realise that the world’s press would pick up on the story and the calf would become an internet sensation, with mentions in Florida, New Zealand, Washington, Japan, India and Africa! Little Louis is now a happy and healthy eight-month-old who enjoys all the attention he gets from visitors.
The new arrivals kept on coming and May saw the birth of a sleigh full of reindeer, which were named Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen after Santa’s famous crew!
As the heat wave gripped the nation in May one of the zoo’s new elephants, Tara, took it upon herself to be the first to take a dip in Base Camp’s pool, which has a total area of 225m² and a gentle slope down to a depth of 3m – allowing the elephants to swim fully submerged.
It can hold a whopping 19,163 of water and is fed directly from a rainwater harvesting tank that is capable of storing up to 55,000 litres collected from the roof of the building.
All eyes turned to football in June as Gareth Southgate’s team came within touching distance of World Cup glory. At the same time, the keepers were busy welcoming three lions of a different type after three tiny sea lions made their zoo debut!
Just weeks later, more than 20,000 Facebook fans flocked online to see the first live hatching of a Caribbean Flamingo. The chick has since thrived and is now out in Flamingo Lake with the rest of the group.
Keepers added another feather to their collective caps in August after gaining official recognition from the Avicultural Society for their outstanding achievements in breeding Eastern white pelicans.
They have received a medal after becoming the first zoo in the UK to successfully breed the magnificent species.
The good news kept coming after the birth of the UK’s only current female Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra foal in September. The healthy foal, who was named Wakanda, was born in the early hours of Wednesday 5th, making her the only surviving female born in the UK since 2002.
As the sun set on a stunning summer there was no let up of activity! Five female penguins migrated west from Germany and Italy. They are now fully integrated into the group and are loving their new home in the Active Oceans Arena.
Days later, Blackpool Zoo’s herd of Asian elephants grew again following the safe arrival of two females from Twycross Zoo.
Noorjahan and her four-year-old calf, Esha, arrived at Base Camp following months of behind the scenes work with specialists from Twycross Zoo and experts from the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP).
The move reunited the mother and daughter duo with the two other members of the herd, Tara and Minbu, who travelled from the Leicestershire zoo earlier in 2018 to join Blackpool’s resident female Kate. Work to identify a suitable bull elephant is on-going, with a view to this being a breeding herd in the near future.
Halloween saw the five Asian elephants get a suitably super-sized treat from a professional pumpkin carver, who is renowned for producing gargantuan specimens!
Simon McMinnis offered a surplus 530lb pumpkin to the girls, who enjoyed every last mouthful!
December was a time for reflection on an incredible year and management also confirmed a huge 13 per cent increase in visitor numbers!
Darren Webster, Blackpool Zoo’s Director, looks back on an amazing 12 months: “Last year was the busiest and best year in our 46 year history with so many breath-taking highs!
“Our brand new concept in animal care, Project Elephant, is really opening visitors’ eyes to the future of zoos and in-situ conservation programmes working together to preserve our most iconic species.
“The new facility is the result of years of planning and hard work by our keepers and elephant experts from across the UK and beyond, and I am absolutely delighted with the results.
“Project Elephant Base Camp is the very heart of Blackpool Zoo’s commitment to securing a future where Asian elephants can thrive – in the zoo’s care, in the care of others and in the wild.
“Of course, while this was a huge achievement I think it is very important to recognise the commitment shown by our keepers across the entire zoo, overseeing successful pregnancies and births and welcoming other arrivals from zoos across the world.
“They all worked harder than ever before and that has paid off with the largest increase in visitors numbers that we have ever seen.
“It doesn’t stop here though, and we are already looking forward to what the next 12 months will bring.
“I want to thank all of our visitors for their continued support in 2018 and we look forward to seeing them all again soon!”