East Anglia's zoos smash 50-year record for visitor numbers
PUBLISHED: 11:48 30 December 2019 | UPDATED: 13:21 30 December 2019
More people visited Banham Zoo in Norfolk and Africa Alive! in Suffolk in 2019 than ever before in their 50-year history.
The boss of the Zoological Society of East Anglia (ZSEA), which runs both attractions, said a combined figure of almost 400,000 people made the zoos their day out. This was the most in half a century and beat their previous record for attendance, set in 2003.
David Field, who took over as chief executive in 2018, said: "People have fallen in love with zoos again. We are delighted that our award-winning visitor attractions, Africa Alive! and Banham Zoo have smashed their all-time visitor records, breaking all previous best years since the zoos first opened over 50 years ago.
"Staff and volunteers at both zoos are celebrating this fantastic achievement. This tops what has been an awesome year for both zoos with Africa Alive! being named as Best Large Visitor Attraction at the Norfolk & Suffolk Tourism Awards and Banham Zoo voted Best Animal Day Out in the eastern region in the Day Out with the Kids Awards.
"This is a real success story and a tribute to the hard work of all the staff and volunteers. This growth and the income this generates helps us create exciting new attractions in the coming years, for visitors to come back and enjoy it and most importantly helps us support the work of the charity for wildlife conservation.
"We are very proud of our record year and the impact both Africa Alive! and Banham Zoo have in their local communities - and we are looking forward with confidence to the year ahead."
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Prof Field, who used to run London Zoo, has spearheaded a new strategy at the East Anglian zoos which helps people to better understand the conservation work being done - and that by buying a ticket, they are helping protect endangered species around the world.
"We've made people into conservationists, we've also put on new events and exhibits aimed at getting people up close to the animals, to make a day-out more of an experience and perfect when people come. We recognise we need to go above and beyond what we've done before so we've introduced more animals, crocodiles and the red river hogs, but also tried to retain value too."