This week sees the return of Zoo Days – the documentary strand following the daily lives of the staff and animals at one of Britain’s busiest zoos.

This time around, Zoo Days is presented by Konnie Huq and comes from Colchester Zoo in Essex. Every day, Konnie takes viewers behind the scenes at the zoo, providing privileged access to over 2,500 animals and the dedicated team of 60 keepers that looks after them.

Occupying an area of 60 acres in the Essex countryside, Colchester Zoo attracts more than half a million visitors every year, but is run as a family business – a concept that gives the zoo a unique, friendly atmosphere. The staff at the zoo are full of character and passionate about their work.

For the 60 curators, keepers and vets at Colchester, working at the zoo could never be described as routine. Caring for elephants, tigers, lions, rhinos, chimps and giraffes, no two jobs are ever the same. On one day, staff might be required to encourage endangered species to breed, while the next might see them having to support their animals through dangerous medical operations.

Throughout the series, viewers will meet such characters as Zola, the African elephant who is carrying the hopes of the whole zoo on her shoulders; a desperately fragile baby aardvark; and Jez, the zoo’s innovative new animal trainer.

In Monday’s series opener, Konnie Huq takes viewers behind the scenes at the zoo for the very first time, and introduces the dedicated keepers and the amazing animals they look after. Konnie meets the zoo’s Amur tiger couple who are celebrating Christmas with a little help from their keepers and a pack of rare African hunting dogs. Also, she meets Zola, a particularly important African elephant. Zola is pregnant – but there is a problem: her troubled past has left her bruised and fragile and she does not like baby elephants…

On Tuesday’s show, keepers call in vet John Lewis after they notice a nasty cut on Zola’s leg – but the elephant does not react at all well to the attention. And OQ the aardvark is about to give birth, so keepers are on high alert and must make some speedy last-minute preparations to ensure the delivery goes smoothly.

On Wednesday, the whole zoo is delighted that OQ has given birth successfully, but joy soon turns to concern when keepers discover that the baby has a skin condition that requires round-the-clock supervision. When zoo curator Sarah takes the newborn baby home with her, it develops an unlikely new friendship – with her cat! At the leopard enclosure, meanwhile, pioneering training methods are underway to help save a dying breed.

In Thursday’s instalment, the vet is called in again after a keeper’s favourite bird escapes and gets shot. Also, the meerkat enclosure turns into a mongoose dating agency as two new females are introduced to the group. And at the elephant house, sibling rivalry goes too far when a playfight leaves baby elephant Jambo needing an urgent visit from the dentist.

Rounding off the week’s episodes, Friday’s show sees Jambo get his first filling. Elsewhere, there is a new arrival at the squirrel-monkey enclosure; and, after four weeks apart, Colchester’s aardvark family is reunited.

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