Way back in 2019 (I remember it like it was yesterday) zoologist, Johnpaul Houston officially announced that he was in talks with Trafford council for the first time.
What do we know about Johnpaul Houston? Well, not much. I did some digging (probably fairer to say ‘light dusting’) and his Facebook tells us that he is male. Strong start. He is definitely a zoologist though – either that, or he keeps successfully sneaking into animal enclosures for Facebook pictures. I’m not sure which is more impressive.
He’s also won £6000 on BBC’s Pressure Pad quiz show, which is also impressive. It’s probably fair to say he’s a very smart guy, so I’m satisfied that he’d be a safe pair of hands for rare and vulnerable animals.
Johnpaul Houston spoke to the BBC a year ago: “We’re trying to create a much more naturalistic landscape for the animals and make them feels as though – at least in part – they can exhibit all of their natural behaviours.”
At this stage, Houston said he was hoping for it to open by the end of 2021.
Now, back to the present: the Manchester Zoo website says it is aiming to be open (for schools only) this summer. Considering it’s almost Spring, that’s pretty bloody soon. However, there have been a few distinctions from the first announcement, such as the location.
Houston’s initial talks with local councils seemed to all be with Trafford. Manchester Zoo has since announced they’re looking to make their home in Middleton, and are now in talks with Rochdale council.
It does seem like this zoo is looking at being more, ‘immersive.’ If that means rings getting stolen by monkeys and elephant shit on my shoulder, I’m IN! But, I think Houston’s definition of ‘immersive’ is only something we’re going to find out upon opening.
The website currently says, “We will act as a moral beacon within the community of Greater Manchester, through our pioneering social science projects, aiming to help at-risk individuals such as single parents and ex-military veterans.”
“You will get the chance to meet some of the beautiful native animals of Manchester, as well exotic species from all over the world, including locations such as Madagascar (as seen in our artwork concept design for our lemur habitat)!”
According to me, a “native animal of Manchester,” is a pigeon and a jäger-fuelled ape on a Saturday night. So, not sure what that means, but very, very, very excited to find out.
Stay alert, animal-lovers. Something big is coming this way. And it’s not the elephant in the room.