Lemurs watching the rare solar eclipse, a whole host of births, innovative conservation projects around the globe and the opening of the UK’s largest ever zoo development, Islands.

Here, Chester Zoo relives the moments that defined 2015.


Sumatran tiger triplets, Topan, Jaya and Kasarna

Three tiny tiger triplets Jaya, Topan and Kasarna were born to Sumatran tigress Kirana and dad, Fabi.

Sumatran tigers are one of the rarest big cat species in the world, making the arrival of the trio an incredibly special addition to the European breeding programme. The species can only be found on the Indonesian island of Sumatra and are the smallest of all tiger species.

With numbers in the wild believed to be as few as just 300-400, Sumatran tigers are classed by conservationists as critically endangered. They are targeted by poachers who use their body parts as traditional medicine and much of their jungle habitat has been destroyed.


Sophie the onager is more than happy to let a group of jackdaws pinch bits of her coat in the warm weather

Sophie the onager was more than happy to let a group of jackdaws pinch bits of her coat for their nests.

Biodiversity officer, Sarah Bird, said: “It’s great to see the jackdaws going about the business of building their nests with such creativity – and what a fine example of recycling too!”

Onagers are one of the world’s rarest species of wild ass and, after suffering badly at the hands of illegal poaching, overgrazing and disease passed on from farm animals, there are believed to be around just 600 left in the wild and very few zoos in the world keep the species.


Lemurs looking at the eclipse over Chester Zoo on Friday, March 20

Three ring-tailed lemurs were snapped watching the solar eclipse - a rare phenomenon where the sun is completely obscured by the moon.

In the last 500 years only eight total solar eclipses have been visible from the UK and the zoo’s primates picked the perfect spot from which to look to the skies and catch this year’s spectacular event.


The first Humboldt penguin chicks of 2015 have emerged from their eggs at Chester Zoo

The first of six Humboldt penguin chicks hatched in April – weighing just 68 grams.

Each year zookeepers use a naming theme for the new penguins, which has previously included British Olympic athletes, England football legends and even chocolate bars. This time around the chicks were named after islands in South East Asia and included Panay and Papua!


Prime Minister David Cameron was given a tour of Islands at Chester Zoo on May 6, the final day of the 2015 general election campaign
Prime Minister David Cameron was given a tour of Islands at Chester Zoo on May 6, the final day of the 2015 general election campaign

Prime Minister David Cameron visited the zoo to see how work was progressing on its £40m Islands attraction, ahead of its public opening in July.

Mr Cameron toured the site of the new development - the biggest and most ambitious in zoo history – as Britain’s political leaders hit the campaign trail in a final day’s push for votes ahead of the General Election.


Five-day-old new-born male giraffe Sanyu makes his public debut at Chester Zoo

Sanyu, a rare Rothschild’s giraffe, was the first of two calves to be born at the zoo in 2015.

The arrival of the youngster, who measured five-foot-tall at birth, proved cause for great celebration as Rothschild’s are one of the world’s most endangered subspecies of giraffe, with recent estimates suggesting less than 1,100 now remain in Africa.

The zoo supports important projects in the wild, including the first ever scientific review of the species, which is aiming to develop a long-term conservation strategy for the animals.


Phase one of the UK’s biggest ever zoo development, Islands, opened in July.

Islands brings the zoo’s conservation efforts to life through detailed recreations of habitats in South East Asia in one of the most ambitious zoo expansions ever. Visitors are able to head off on their own expedition, walking over bridges, travelling in boats and seeing buildings that are architecturally identical to those found on the far-flung islands of Panay, Papua, Bali, Sumba, Sumatra and Sulawesi.

Thousands of artefacts including boats, shop fronts and vehicles were shipped over from South East Asia to add authenticity to the new zone, including 52,000 plants that were used to recreate the tropical environments.


Monsoon Forest
Monsoon Forest

August saw the unveiling of Monsoon Forest – the largest indoor zoo exhibit ever built in the UK.

Home to Sunda gharial crocodiles, rhinoceros hornbills, Sulawesi macaques and numerous other exotic and endangered animals, the huge exhibit features its very own tropical weather system with temperatures reaching 80°F.

Part of the zoo’s massive Islands expansion, Monsoon Forest is also home to some of the world’s most impressive and unique plant species, including starfruit, mango, paw paw, orchids and 20ft tall palm trees.


Lead keeper Steve Williams cradles one of Chester Zoos northern bald ibis chicks

Four Northern bald ibis chicks which were bred at the zoo were flown to Jerez in southern Spain as part of a breed and release programme that has reintroduced the species to Europe, where it had been extinct for more than 300 years.

The species has undergone long-term decline and currently sits on the edge of extinction, with 98% of its population lost as a direct result of hunting, habitat loss, pesticide poisoning and an increase in construction works around nesting sites.


The Sun Bears in their new home at Chester Zoo
The Sun Bears in their new home at Chester Zoo

Sun bears made a return to the zoo after a 40-year absence.

Two bears - a female named Milli and a male called Toni – arrived at the zoo in October and are the first sun bears to live in Chester since 1976.

Previously the pair were rescued as cubs by conservationists working in Cambodia after their mothers were killed by poachers and they were found as mistreated pets, before moving to the UK in October 2013.

The zoo hopes the bears will play an important role in the European breeding programme for the vulnerable species.


Two unusual African sengis made their debuts at Chester Zoo

Two cheeky sengis made their public debuts in November and hit the headlines after people around the world fell in love with the tiny creatures.

The little newcomers, which are also known as round eared elephant-shrews, were born at the zoo for the very first time during the summer in a special behind-the-scenes breeding facility.

The duo were the first of their kind to ever go on show to visitors at Chester and, bizarrely, they are not thought to be directly linked to their shrew cousins in other parts of the world and are more closely related to elephants!


The female Brazilian tapir born earlier this month

Earlier in December keepers announced the arrival of a rare female Brazilian tapir.

The female calf - which has not yet been named - was born with spots and stripes all over its body, head and legs but will lose these ‘humbug-like’ patterns in the first year of her life.

Chester Zoo supports conservation projects in Brazil that are researching the different behaviour patterns and movements of tapirs in the wild and hope to play a major role in safeguarding the species for future generations.