FOR more than 50 years Colchester Zoo has been one of the jewels in the crown of the town’s tourism.

Families come from miles around to enjoy the special events and visit the animals with the Maldon Road attraction already gearing up for Christmas.

These vintage photos, which featured in a book produced for the zoo as part of its 50th anniversary, show the origins of what has gone on to become one of the most popular family days out in the region.

The zoo actually began in Southport where founders Frank and Helena Farrar lived, 60 years ago, after Helena spotted a lion cub in the window of a petshop and barged her way through a curious crowd and bought the frightened cub to save it any more distress.

They were the aunt and uncle of director Anthony Tropeano’s mother Angela who, with husband Dominique, bought the zoo from the Farrars in the early Eighties.

The fledgling zoo moved to Colchester in 1963, after outgrowing Southport.

The zoo is now run by their son Anthony and daughter Sarah who welcome millions of visitors each year.