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Chester Zoo's £40m development by Dan Pearlman recreates Indonesian island experience

Chester Zoo has debuted its new £40m (US$62.2m, €56.4m) Islands development by Dan Pearlman, creating a highly-immersive, themed adventure across a series of Indonesian islands and making the visitor attraction one of the largest and most important zoos anywhere in the world.

Phase one of the Islands development, which accounts for around 50 per cent of the total expansion, sets visitors off on a journey through Indonesia, putting the spotlight on species including the critically endangered Visayan warty pig, banteng, lowland anoa and cassowary.

Dan Pearlman – who have also worked on zoos in Hannover and South Korea – led the project, while engineering company Laing O’Rourke was awarded the build following a nationwide tender process. The main feature of this phase is a 15-minute lazy river boat trip, which takes guests on an alternate journey through the exhibits, offering a cageless river experience.

“When George Mottershead built the zoo back in 1931, he tried to create a zoo without bars and this is what we’re trying to do here,” said Chester Zoo MD, Jamie Christon, speaking to CLAD at the launch. “For example, on our riverside enclosures we’ve created ramshackled jetties, but in fact there’s a fence below there stopping the animals being able to come out.

“A lot of work has also gone into interpretation and theming,” he continued. ”Our in-house team is responsible for that. We’ve been out in Indonesia, we’ve had our team take photos of what people sell at the markets there and tried to create something similar. We’ve even brought objects back from Indonesia including real fishing boats and products to create a totally immersive experience.

“What we’re trying to do is create the illusion of adventure. You’re not sure where you’re going, we don’t give you a detailed map, your ears are filled with sounds pumped in on this expedition and you wonder, where you’re going. It’s something totally different to anything on offer anywhere else.”

A second phase of development at Islands, scheduled to open in around a month’s time, will see the addition of Monsoon Forest – the largest indoor zoo exhibit in the UK. Included will be raised walkways, underwater viewing and free flight areas in a sub-tropical climate. In addition, phase two will include a bird house featuring the incredibly rare Bali Starling, orangutan and Sunda gharial crocodile habitats, plus a new tiger enclosure which will sit on the edge of the lazy river.

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Chester Zoo has debuted its new £40m (US$62.2m, €56.4m) Islands development by Dan Pearlman, creating a highly-immersive, themed adventure across a series of Indonesian islands and making the visitor attraction one of the largest and most important zoos anywhere in the world. Phase one of the Islands development, which accounts for around 50 per cent of the total expansion, sets visitors off on a journey through Indonesia, putting the spotlight
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The expansion is themed with authentic items curated from Indonesia / Chester Zoo
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