20 questions Jamie Christon of Chester Zoo

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Jamie is CEO of Chester Zoo

  1. How are you ? 

Very good thanks! I’m enjoying the spring sunshine that’s arrived in Chester and I’m also really looking forward to the summer ahead. 

  1. What can you tell us about the zoos plans for 2022? 

We have been overwhelmed by the incredible support received from our members and visitors since reopening, following on from months of closures during the pandemic. This has allowed us to get back on our feet and we’re now looking at developing parts of the zoo, including the introduction of overnight stays. We are hopeful that building works for this project could start later this year – watch this space!  

  1. Describe a typical day?  

There is no such thing! The zoo is a complex organisation and I could be involved in discussions about delivering our 10-year conservation masterplan, to meeting a member of parliament or being interviewed by the media, to meetings about the zoo sector or helping to support the visitor economy of Cheshire. 

  1. What would you sing on karaoke night ? 

I have a very limited karaoke repertoire, but I’d have to choose Angels by Robbie Williams – it’s always a good one to sing in the car! 

  1. Favourite place to visit in the borough ? 

Excluding the obvious, I’d have to pick Hoole – there’s a real sense of community and it always makes me smile. 

  1. What do you think Chester could do better as a city? 

We are starting, as a visitor economy, to come together as one voice within the city This has been missing for years. Destination Chester is leading this and is working as an independent network to provide a single voice and steer for the community. 

  1. Who has inspired you in life? 

Various people over the years. But probably my friends and peers who, on a regular basis, inspire me to do better and to work harder. More recently I have been inspired by the drive and commitment shown by Ben Francis – the Founder of Gymshark.  

  1. If you could time travel where/when would you go? 

I’d travel back to my 20’s and live them again – but with today’s expectance of equality, diversity and inclusion.  

  1. The zoo is known for its work with endangered species. What work are you most proud of? 

Our ultimate mission is to ‘prevent extinction’. In the last year alone, we have been doing just that. Our experts have been working with a number of species, both here at the zoo, and in the field that are on the edge of extinction. Using the expertise of the team here at the zoo we have figured out how to successfully breed  a number of endangered species = with some even being reintroduced to back to their wild habitats.  

  1. What can the average person do to try and help endangered species? 

I’d always encourage people to start in their own back garden. Native species such as the Hedgehog are in massive decline in the UK. You can play a part in protecting species by making your own garden more wildlife friendly for the native birds, insects and mammals. This can be as simple as growing seasonal plants and flowers – it all makes a huge difference! 

  1. Which person living or dead would you take for an independent coffee or drink? 

Easy one. Sir Winston Churchill. I happen to know his grandson and so that’s the closest I will ever get. 

  1. Where would you like to see Chester in 5 years time? 

A flourishing city centre. Full of independent shops and businesses, filled with happy people and love.  

  1. What have been the highlights of your time at the zoo? 

Reopening the zoo after being closed for 208 days throughout the pandemic. It was a huge effort from the whole team and an emotional day for us all.  

With Chris Matheson MP recently “I would particularly like to congratulate the zoo on being named the third most visited attraction in the whole of the UK in 2021 and for their ground-breaking and world leading efforts on elephant herpesvirus (EEHV)”
  1. Name a famous person you have met? 

Before working at the zoo I worked in airport management, so I’ve been lucky to have met most Prime Ministers and a few different members of the Royal Family.  

  1. What is your favourite film and why? 

I went and saw Belfast a few weeks ago. It was very moving and as someone who has spent a lot of time working in that city and with the people of Northern Ireland, it played out the troubles in a very powerful way. 

  1. What would you say is the zoo’s most underrated feature ?  

Our amazing FIVE national collection of plants! To give you a flavour, the zoo is home to 1,500 cacti, more than 2,000 carnivorous plants and 2,500 enchantingly colourful orchids.  

  1. Who would play you in the movie of your life? 

That’s a difficult one. If Jonathan Bailey was interested that would be cool. 

  1. What do you do to relax? 

I do enjoy the odd Netflix binge every now and again. 

  1. What advice would you give to your younger self ? 

Courage is key! 

  1. How do you feel about the future? 

Excited! There is so much going on within Chester Zoo. It feels like the pandemic has allowed us to reset and start again. 

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