Chester Zoo Islands photo

Delays to Chester Zoo Islands

Jessica Middleton-Pugh

Chester Zoo has announced that part of its £40m 12-acre Islands development will not be ready in time for the public opening on Monday 13 July.

The project involves transforming an unoccupied part of the zoo estate into replicas of exotic islands from the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Bali, Sumatra, Sumba and Sulawesi.

According to a statement from Chester Zoo, the Islands will now open in two phases. The Sumatra Island and Monsoon Forest, an Indonesian jungle house which the Zoo described as “the largest indoor zoo exhibit in the UK”, will remain closed to the public until “later this summer”.

According to the Zoo, “the build process has been complex due to its scale and the challenges of working with living plants and animals – creating the perfect habitats for our living inhabitants.

“As our opening date gets closer our priority is to ensure that the animals are offered the best possible experience of their new home. We’re undergoing rigorous testing to ensure the safety and comfort of the animals and sequencing any snagging work accordingly.

“Now that we have a better idea of our timetable for completion we’ve decided to open Islands in two phases.”

Laing O’Rourke has been on site at the Islands since the beginning of 2014.

The architect on the project is Dan Pearlman. Hill Dickinson advises Chester Zoo. Barton Willmore advised on the planning for the scheme.

Following the announcement, many customers with pre-booked tickets for the Islands expressed frustration on the Chester Zoo website.

One said: “So disappointed that you have given such short notice on this our tickets have been booked for months, yet we get a fortnight’s notice that it’s not ready.”

Mark Pilgrim, director general of the zoo, said: “Islands is the biggest and most ambitious expansion in the history of UK zoos. No one has ever undertaken anything like this before, we’ve ventured into new and unknown territory and the sheer complexity and scale of the project is just incredible.

“Animal welfare is always at the very top of our list of priorities and we want to make sure we get everything absolutely spot-on for each and every one of the animals before they move into their expansive new homes. So we’re going to keep some areas of Islands under wraps until later in the summer, allowing us to add some finishing touches to the more complex structures and to give the animals plenty of settling in time.”

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