A RECORD number of people visited Chester Zoo last year, setting an all-time high figure for the attraction's 88-year history.

Named the UK's most popular zoo, around 1,969,768 visitors visited the zoo, which is 4% up on its previous best in 2016.

Now, the zoo's conservationists have issued a thank you message to supporters.

Chief operating officer at the zoo Jamie Christon said: “The whole zoo team would like to thank every single visitor that walked through our gates in 2018, helping us to prevent extinction around the world.

“We are fighting to ensure a future of an array of animals and plants – both here in Chester and through 80 vital conservation projects, spanning 30 different countries.

"These global initiatives use the latest scientific research, animal welfare knowledge and technical knowhow to ensure the survival of many of the world’s most at-risk species.

"Importantly, they also support local communities living side-by-side with the animals, ensuring they feel completely invested in protecting the amazing biodiversity around them.

"None of this would be possible without the fantastic support of our visitors and members.”

In 2018, Chester Zoo had an unprecedented number of rare births from the UK's first sun bear cub to a critically endangered rhino calf.

Chester Zoo is firmly established as one of the top 10 zoos in the world - according to users of TripAdvisor.

There are major plans to continue to grow as a world-renowned visitor attraction and conservation centre in 2019.

Jamie added: “Later in 2019, we have a number of new state-of-the-art animal habitats opening, including a huge zone that will allow people to experience the habitats and wildlife of Madagascar, as well as an exciting line-up of events for visitors to enjoy throughout the year.”