Work on a new elephant house at Blackpool Zoo is nearing completion as the attraction celebrates a seven per cent rise in visitor numbers this year.
Revenue is also up 10 per cent while more than 50 babies were born throughout the year, ranging from a critically endangered Bactrian camel to a Californian sea lion.
Construction of the elephant house which is the zoo’s single biggest investment ever, began in July as part of a £5m spending programme.
Work on the three-acre outdoor area is set to start soon and the facility will open next year as part of the zoo’s 45th anniversary celebrations.
Zoo managing director Darren Webster said: “Since breaking ground on our mammoth development in July we have made excellent progress and now the building is almost complete, the sheer scale of the project can be seen.
“Next year marks the 45th anniversary of Jonny Morris cutting the ribbon to open the zoo to the public and the changes during that time have been astounding.
“In the past decade we have invested million of pounds in facilities for our beloved animals as well as a our valued visitors, and this will continue for years to come.”
Staff bid farewell this year to their two-year-old tiger cub twins. Radzi now lives at Zoo Santo Inacio in Portugal while Barney has made himself at home at La Bourbansais Zoo in Bretagne in France.
In addition to arrivals and departures, keepers at Blackpool Zoo successfully co-ordinated root canal surgery for Alyona the 18 stone female tiger, who made a full recovery.
Mr Webster added: “It has been another extraordinary year here at Blackpool Zoo, with record numbers of people visiting us.
“Our keepers work day and night to look after our residents and 50 new babies is a wonderful achievement.
“Everyone was emotional when Radzi and Barney left the zoo, but we are keeping up to date with their progress and they are very happy in their new homes.”
The entrance to the new elephant house will be next to the Dinosaur Safari.
The indoor facility has been specially designed around the welfare needs of the animals and will feature a raised viewing platform, meaning visitors can come face to face with the impressive residents.
Externally, the public will enjoy unobstructed views of the elephants in their paddock, which will include a sanded area complete with bathing pool and a landscaped grass field.
It will replace the current enclosure which is 75 years old and was built originally as an aircraft hangar.
Tens of thousands of pounds have also been raised by the attraction this year and divided between eight conservations projects across the world. Also in 2016, the Blackpool Zoo Education Academy was recognised with an award at the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) 50th anniversary celebrations.