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Chester Zoo rebuilds and reopens the improved Monsoon Forest

chester zoo monsoon forest

Chester Zoo has rebuilt and reopened the improved Monsoon Forest, home to orangutans and crocodiles, after a devastating fire broke out in December 2018.

The fire at Chester Zoo was caused by an electrical fault, and resulted in the deaths of some birds, fish and insects at Monsoon Forest.

Chester Zoo used a £200,000 pot of money called the Monsoon Forest Fund to rebuild Monsoon Forest after a fundraising page raised more than £220,000 in one week.

The fund was also put to use across the forest islands of South East Asia and at Chester Zoo to help prevent the extinction of some of the region’s most threatened species.

Visitors can now return to the popular area and explore the dense jungles of South East Asia, immersing themselves in the sights, sounds and smells of Monsoon Forest.

Preventing extinction at Chester Zoo

The new area hosts 33 animal species, including rhinoceros hornbills and tentacled snakes, which cannot be seen anywhere else in the UK.

Monsoon Forest also features meat-eating plants, ancient gharials, rare and colourful birds, and a family of Sumatran orangutans.

Speaking about the restoration, chief operating officer Jamie Christon told BBC: “It’s been a painstaking process. Everything has had to come out of that building.

“There’s over 2,600 new plants and trees back in, all the soil and subsoil had to come out, all the roof had to come off and be replaced – so it’s been a long, arduous process, really.”

Explore the dense jungles of South East Asia

The Sumatran orangutans now have a restored and improved habitat, while the fund has also allowed for the development of an amphibian exhibit focusing on species from South East Asia.

In addition, Chester Zoo used the money to develop new facilities for the rhinoceros hornbills, including a new separation area for studying breeding behaviour.

Monsoon Forest has its own weather system, which means it can rain indoors and reach temperatures of 27C (81F) in a bid to replicate the climate of South East Asia.

In creating the “Islands” project for Chester Zoo, dan pearlman was solely responsible for the design of the architecture and landscape, plantings, animal habitats, and the boat trip.

Because only the roof of the Monsoon Forest is primarily visible from the outside, it blends seamlessly into the landscape. The roof’s airy ETFE-membrane also allows the transmission of UVA and UVB rays important, for both animals and plants.

Images: Chester Zoo

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Bea Mitchell

Bea is a journalist specialising in entertainment, attractions and tech with 10 years' experience. She has written and edited for publications including CNET, BuzzFeed, Digital Spy, Evening Standard and BBC. Bea graduated from King's College London and has an MA in journalism.

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