Chessington’s Conservation Fund Gets to Work in Ecuador

Chessington’s Conservation Fund Gets to Work in Ecuador

Launched in conjunction with Chessington Zoo’s 80th Birthday in 2011, the Chessington Conservation Fund (CCF) was born. The vision of the fund is to raise money and protect nature’s future through valuable conservation work and education both within Chessington World of Adventures Resort and the local area but also worldwide through supporting recognised charities.

The CCF raised almost £60,000 in it’s first year and the team at Chessington are set to make 2012 even bigger and better; aiming to raise even more money for the charity partners it continues to support – World Land Trust, Surrey Wildlife Trust, EAZA and Ape Action Africa.

One of our annual fundraising events is our CCF Evening. Last year’s event proved extremely popular and this year it is set to be even bigger and better! Running from 6pm until dusk on 23rd June 2012, guests will gain entry to the zoo, where you will be able to chat one-to-one with keepers and get up close and personal to a variety of animal during a host of shows and feeds. There will also be a variety of stalls including local trades and crafts. As part of the evening we will be auctioning off a number of exclusive meet and greets with some of Chessington’s fantastic animals, where you can meet your dream animal up close such as our critically endangered Sumatran tigers. Tickets are just £5 each with all proceeds going towards helping protect animals in the wild and are available now on

Supporting the World Land Trust

One of the charities supported by the CCF is the World Land Trust. Using a proportion of the monies raised in 2011, Chessington World of Adventures has recently enabled the purchase of an area of land in Ecuador that is equal in size to that of the Resort in Surrey. Working with the World Land Trust and Nature & Culture International, the land purchase will help to protect 128 acres of the most threatened and bio-diverse rainforest in Ecuador.

This will help to safeguard diverse wildlife in an area where over 80% of the tropical rainforests have already been destroyed, leaving many species globally threatened. These rainforests in South America provide critically important habitats for many rare bird species, as well as a wide variety of other animals such as Jaguars and Howler Monkeys. A number of the species of wildlife being protected are also cared for within the Zoo at Chessington.
One animal that lives within Ecuador but isn’t common to the rainforests is also a popular resident in Chessington, the Andean Condor. Condors, although they prefer rocky scrubland to tropical rainforests, are the national bird of Ecuador, and are on the flag’s coat of arms. They play an important part in the folklore and mythology for the region.

Chessington has a very successful Andean Condor breeding programme, reputed to be one of the best in Europe. In fact, May last year saw the arrival of a new member of the condor family at Chessington when Sumaq – whose name means ‘beautiful’ in Quecha (a language used in South America) – was born to parents Quito and Chester.

Sumaq is the only parent reared condor chick in the UK at present and Quito and Chester have now parent reared two condor chicks together whilst at Chessington. The Andean Condor is a highly endangered species so conservation and breeding of these amazing animals is key to their future.

Case Study: Sumaq the Andean Condor celebrates his first birthday!

Sumaq hatched on 25th May 2011 at Chessington World of Adventures. His name means ‘beautiful’ in Quecha which is a language used within the condors’ natural range in South America. Both the male, Chester, and the female, Quito, took turns to incubate the egg for 55 days. At 6 months old Sumaq was fully grown and as he approaches his first birthday, he is already slightly larger than both his parents.

He still has his juvenile brown feathers but he’ll slowly start to grow his black and white adult feathers over the next year. It takes young condors quite some time to get their adult plumage because they will usually only loose one or two feathers at a time – in the wild this ensures their amazing gliding flight isn’t hampered and they can still fly around for miles to look for food. It could take Sumaq up to two years to go through a ‘full moult’ and replace all his feathers!

Sumaq has a big personality and loves to play with sticks, ropes and also tries to play fight with his parents. He is very much a Daddies boy. He tends to follow Chester everywhere, and can usually be seen sat next to his Dad. They still groom each other too!

Condors will only eat carrion, the carcass of an animal that has already died. Their massive wingspan allows them to fly for hours at a time without really needing to flap their wings, and their feathers are very strong to withstand the pressures they face when in flight. When they see a carcass (often found by looking out for other vultures that a congregating together) they get to indulge in the meat first, other vultures have to wait for them to finish before they try to feed. If the condors are hungry enough they will eat so much they will be unable to fly again for a few hours as they’re too heavy. Their stomach acids are so strong that they can digest food that contains anthrax or botulism bacteria, which would kill off any other animal!

In the wild Andean Condors are threatened purely due to human persecution. They are often killed for sport, or by farmers who mistakenly think they are pests (when actually they help prevent the spread of disease by only eating the carcasses of animals that have already died). Because condors only lay eggs every two years, their population is at risk of declining rapidly as adults are killed off by humans and there aren’t many younger birds to replace the numbers that are being killed.