ANIMAL magic!

Colchester Zoo is open to the public again and clearly proving a hit with visitors.

The venue, one of our most popular, best-loved tourist attractions, was forced to close due to government lockdown restrictions on March 23.

However, as these pictures show, everyone is delighted to have it back.

Thomas Smith, from Hatfield Peverel, said: "I was lucky enough to be invited to the private open day, to say thanks for all the support I've given.

"When the gates opened, the staff lined the driveway, clapping and applauding cars as they drove in.

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An Amur tiger cub, photographed by Thomas Smith

"It was magical and moving and so great to be back.

"It was almost like seeing a long-lost family member, because all the staff stopped to chat and everyone had smiles on their faces."

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Billy Montague with wife Laura and children Katie and Charlie. Billy described the zoo as his family’s happy place.

Melissa Humphrys, from Thorpe, visited with two-year-old son Charlie.

"All the animals were out in force and enjoyed seeing people as much as we enjoyed seeing them," she said.

Sarah-Jayne Davis, from Marks Tey, returned with husband James and children Rocco, nine, Theo, eight, and Elsa-May, five.

She said: "We were very excited for our first trip back and had an afternoon slot with plenty of time to look around.

"We liked seeing the elephants and tigers best and are looking forward to visiting again soon."

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Kay Arnold and grandson George, five, look at the stingrays during their trip to Colchester Zoo

Robyn Farley, from St Johns, said: "It was an incredible day out and the experience was as good as ever."

Victoria MacRae, who visited with daughter Evie, nine, and six-year-old son Louie, added: "It was one of the most peaceful, relaxed trips we've had.

"Although some areas were out of bounds, we still got to see most of the animals and there were lots of new hand sanitiser stations.

"We loved the experience and would encourage others to go while numbers are limited."

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Evie MacRae, nine, and brother Louie, six, visit the penguins

Tara Watson took son Jax, two, and said: "We had an amazing day. All the animals were excited to see us and interacted lots."

Billy Montague, from Colchester, described the zoo as his family's "happy place".

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Sarah-Jayne Davis with husband James and children Rocco, nine, Theo, eight, and Elsa-May Davis, five, taking a selfie with the elephants at Colchester Zoo

After visiting with wife Laura and children Katie, five, and Charlie, four and a half months, he said: "We were so pleased to be able to get back to the zoo, which we always call our 'happy place'.

"My son was born in January, so it was so nice to see how his reaction to the animals has changed."

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The Amur tiger cubs, photographed by Vincent Rose

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Feeding time for the otters, sent in by Claire Arnold

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A picture of the giraffes, sent in by Victoria MacRae

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Little Lottie the rhino calf sticks her tongue out for this picture, taken by Thomas Smith

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Vincent Rose sent us this great picture of a cheetah

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Tara Watson and two-year-old son Jax

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Tiger fans Theo Davis, eight, and sister Elsa-May, five