Colchester Zoo in Essex won the Accessible and Inclusive Tourism award, sponsored by First Bus, at the East of England Tourism Awards 2023-2024.

First opened in the grounds of Stanway Hall Park in 1963, the zoo is currently home to 155 species in 60 acres of parkland and lakes.

The attraction has been under the ownership of the Tropeano family since 1983, with 2023 marking their 40th year as owners and the 60th anniversary of the zoo.

In 2004, Colchester Zoo established its charitable arm, Action for the Wild (AFTW), which has since donated over £4.2 million to numerous conservation projects worldwide – supporting a wide range of species from orangutans and vultures to Komodo dragons and elephants.

This year, Action for the Wild will change its name to Colchester Zoological Society (CZS), in preparation to take over the running of the zoo in January 2025 as Colchester Zoo turns from a privately owned zoo to a charitable trust.

“We are excited for this change to come into effect as it will ensure that the zoo remains a top destination in Essex as well as help to provide conservation across the globe for years to come,” said Andy Moore, director of science, education and training.

“We have also shared a vision for the future of Colchester Zoo which includes the expansion of the site. A bigger site may not necessarily mean more animals but will allow us to expand on our high standard of welfare and provide bigger habitats for a range of species.

“Conservation is and will remain at the heart of Colchester Zoo caring for wildlife and wild places.”

Eastern Daily Press: Andy Moore, director of science, education and training at Colchester ZooAndy Moore, director of science, education and training at Colchester Zoo (Image: Colchester Zoo)
Since 2005, Colchester Zoo and its charity AFTW have been working to set up the 6,000-hectare UmPhafa Private Nature Reserve in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa.

In 2024, UmPhafa will transition into a conservation trust which will ensure the land has protected area status, providing a safe home for wild species forever.

“We have been working to rehabilitate the land, which was previously managed as separate cattle farms, to return it to a healthy state after the intensive grazing, and to release native animal species back onto the reserve,” explained Andy.

Closer to home, Colchester Zoo has actively contributed to the protection of native species. This includes the Fisher’s Estuarine moth programme, which was shortlisted for the Great British Wildlife Restoration competition in 2023.

Andy said the zoo’s “dedicated staff” help set it apart, likewise its commitment to accessibility and inclusivity, as recognised at the East of England Tourism Awards.

“It’s been encouraging to see that we are heading in the right direction as a business working towards becoming more accessible and inclusive,” said Andy.

“We are excited to build on what we already have in place to make the future of Colchester Zoo one that can be enjoyed by all.”

Through educational outreach programmes and an initiative which sees it loan camera traps to schools, the zoo is able to provide education both within the UK and worldwide.

Meanwhile, its employment inclusion scheme has helped Colchester Zoo “grow as a business and provide a work environment for all”, Andy said.

He added that the zoo is committed to further enhancing its accessibility in the future.

“When designing a new area or habitat, viewing areas will be made accessible for wheelchair users and mobility scooters,” he said. “Wooden structures, where possible, will be replaced with full panel glass to allow for better visibility.

“We want to make the zoo as accessible as possible to everyone.”

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