AHEAD of the Welsh Mountain Zoo's 60th anniversary, we are taking a stroll down memory lane.

The zoo in Colwyn Bay has grown to become one of North Wales’ most loved tourist attractions. The site welcomes on average 170,000 visitors a year and homes more than 80 species.

The story of the zoo began in 1962 when Robert Jackson, his wife Margaret and their three sons, moved from their home in Cheshire to Colwyn Bay and, through the coldest winter in living memory, began building what he named the ‘Welsh Mountain Zoo and Botanic Gardens.'

North Wales Pioneer: Opening day of the zoo 1963 - Robert Jackson and the then mayor of Colwyn Bay.Opening day of the zoo 1963 - Robert Jackson and the then mayor of Colwyn Bay. (Image: Welsh Mountain Zoo)

On May 18 1963, Robert and the mayor officially declared the zoo 'open'.

The attraction grew and in the 1980s, it became a charity.

Despite giving up ownership of the company, members of the Jackson family still remain on the Board to this day.

The zoo employs a team of about 40 permanent staff, which rises to about 55 staff seasonally.

North Wales Pioneer: NZSW Trustee, Nick Jackson with Lanner Falcon, Mrs Robinson.NZSW Trustee, Nick Jackson with Lanner Falcon, Mrs Robinson. (Image: Welsh Mountain Zoo)

Conservation of animals under threat has underpinned the direction of the zoo. This focus remains unchanged.

Charlotte Dykes, marketing manager of the Welsh Mountain Zoo, said: “This is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the Zoo on this very important birthday. The zoo’s history and journey during the past three decades has been rich and varied and has seen the zoo evolve operationally, whilst ensuring that conservation education remains at the heart of what we do.

North Wales Pioneer: Newly built silk road project - Snow Leopard enclosure completed in 2021Newly built silk road project - Snow Leopard enclosure completed in 2021 (Image: Welsh Mountain Zoo)

“Today we employ a fantastic team of around 40 permanent staff, which swells to around 55 staff seasonally. We also have a large army of volunteers and together we are committed to upholding the zoo’s vision and ethos whilst maintaining and developing the large grounds.

“The zoo offers a wonderful resource for the local community whist driving tourism on a wider scale and plays an important role in the local economy.

North Wales Pioneer: Sea Lion feeding and training in the 1960's.Sea Lion feeding and training in the 1960's. (Image: Welsh Mountain Zoo)

"We have achieved so much through the years and have so many exciting plans ahead.


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"Our 60th birthday marks a great opportunity to celebrate this wonderful institution and charity and recognise all that we have achieved, particularly in terms of animal welfare and conservation.”

During the pandemic, the zoo was left desperately fighting for survival. The zoo closed on March 22 2020 as the Covid-19 lockdown hit the UK

North Wales Pioneer: Margaret in the 1950's.Margaret in the 1950's. (Image: Welsh Mountain Zoo)

The site was forced to furlough half its staff and suspend all day-to-day repairs and improvements - apart from those essential to the welfare of the animals.

The site costs more than £118,000 a month to run.


There was a huge response to a fundraiser, which famous faces also backed

North Wales Pioneer: Sea Lions celebrate in 2023.Sea Lions celebrate in 2023. (Image: Welsh Mountain Zoo)

The zoo invites visitors to join the celebration of the diamond birthday weekend on May 20 and 21 with 50 per cent off admission tickets.

A number of activities are taking place to mark the milestone including CircoArts Workshops, YouthShedz VR Van, Children's Storytelling, Legacy Animal Species Talks and a Gardens Walking Tour.

Book online in advance to avoid disappointment. Visit the Welsh Mountain Zoo website.