Our history

Where it began...

Originally known as Stanway Hall Park Zoo, the zoo was opened on the 2nd June 1963 by Frank and Helena Farrar and celebrated its 50th birthday in 2013!

The zoo was very successful during the 1960's with thousands of visitors flocking to see its iconic animals, and during the 1970's the zoo saw the arrival of a lion called Simba, who still holds the record for being the largest captive lion in the world! The zoo also bred three zeedonks, which caused worldwide interest.

The government passed the Zoo Licensing Act in 1981, which meant that all zoos needed to be licensed and inspected. Frank Farrar knew that his zoo was in need of major improvements in order to gain a licence and so Colchester Zoo was put up for sale.


New ownership

Dr Dominique Tropeano took over the zoo in March 1983 and invested in enclosure improvements, bringing the zoo back up to the standard required to gain its licence. More animals were brought into the collection, including two of our resident elephants, Tanya and Zola.

A major development for Colchester Zoo came during the 1990's with the purchase of an additional 20 acres of land to expand. This purchase enabled the build of Elephant Kingdom, Kingdom of the Wild and Edge of Africa. 

The zoo faced its most critical time during the Foot and Mouth Crisis in 2001 when it was forced to close its gates to the public. Luckily, the zoo was able to reopen just in time for Easter and the local community supported the zoo by sending in donations. Without this support, the zoo may not have recovered.


Colchester Zoo is well known for its ground breaking enclosures. The zoo has won many awards for its enclosure development, animal welfare and conservation. One example of this is award-winning enclosure Playa Patagonia, the sealion exhibit developed in 2004, which was awarded a commendation for the best new enclosure by the Federation of Zoological Gardens of Great Britain and Ireland.

Pioneering technology has also been used in breeding management, which led to the birth of an African elephant calf in 2002. Kito was the first elephant to be born via artificial insemination in Britain and the first in the world to be conceived on the very first attempt at this process. 

Colchester Zoo's Charity Action for the Wild 

Colchester Zoo also helps to fund conservation projects in the wild, actively supporting a number of different organisations around the world, through its charity, Action for the Wild, which was set up in 1993 and achieved charitable status in 2004.


In 2005, Colchester Zoo also purchased three farms to develop the UmPhafa Private Nature Reserve in South Africa where zebra, rhino, giraffe and countless other animals have been released.

Colchester Zoo continues to grow and develop to meet the demands of the 21st century and strives to ensure that it leads the way in the fields of conservation, education and research.


5.00pm close or dusk if earlier
Last admission to zoo grounds at 4.00pm

Click here for further closing times


upcoming events
July 2020
Sun mon tue wed thu fri sat
28 29 30 1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31 1


Animated gif of a elephant