Biodome plan will bring Congo to Cheshire

Sanctuary for endangered animals would make Chester zoo one of top five in world

A A A

A tropical biodome that recreates the atmosphere of Congo and provides a sanctuary for endangered species is to be built at the UK's most popular zoo.

The Heart of Africa project at Chester Zoo is part of a £225m redevelopment which will also include a 90-bed themed hotel and a conservation college.

The entire scheme, entitled "Natural Vision" will be developed over 15 years and is expected to establish the zoo as Europe's largest conservation, animal and leisure attraction.

The biodome will be 34 metres high, bigger than the Eden project at 16,000 square feet, and will simulate the natural African rainforest habitats.

It will include a series of connected domes which can be explored through a jungle canopy. An interactive water ride will provide extensive views of the animal enclosures and themed retail and dining facilities will be incorporated. It will be home to a band of gorillas, a large troop of chimpanzees, okapi (rare giraffe-like creatures), birds, amphibians, reptiles, fishes, and invertebrates. Plants will be transferred from Congo and temperatures kept between 25C and 30C with around 80 per cent humidity.

Visitors will explore the exhibits in a variety of ways including treetop elevated walkways and boat rides. There are also future plans to create an African Savannah Zone which will include an underwater hippopotamus viewing area, similar to the popular attraction in Toledo Zoo, in Ohio.

Detailed plans for the Heart of Africa biodome together with expansion of the main entrance and car park have been submitted to Cheshire West and Chester Council. This planning application includes detailed drawings for the first phase showing the project as the largest free-standing roof structure in Europe.

Alasdair McNee, corporate director at the zoo, said he expected the project to catapult Chester into one of the top five zoos in the world. Currently it is the only UK zoo which ranks in the top six in Europe.

He said: "This is a culmination of many years of planning and is both economic and mission-related. We want to help bring in tourists to the North-west and we're also very keen to continue with our ethos of educating visitors.

"This will be a wonderful opportunity for people to see animals in their natural habitat rather than simply in an enclosure at a zoo.

"There will be some challenges, as plants are not quite as tolerant as animals but we are working with some of the best engineers."

Natural Vision is projected to increase zoo visitor numbers from the current 1.3 million visits per year towards 1.6 million visits a year by 2013 and to 2 million by 2019.

It is expected The Heart of Africa will be open to visitors from mid-2014.

The zoo, which is home to 7,000 animals and 400 species, currently occupies 50 hectares of land but owns a further 200. The completed Natural Vision project will cover 80 hectares including new access roads and parking.

The realm of the Red Ape (an expansion of the orang utan exhibit ) and Beginnings (redevelopment of the main entrance) which opened in 2007 both form part of the "Natural Vision" project.

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star