DUDLEY Zoo and Castle has kickstarted its 85th anniversary year with record-breaking January visitor figures.

Throughout the first few weeks of 2022 the Castle Hill attraction welcomed 12,673 people – almost 1,000 up on 2020 when it was last open to the public for the full January.

Bosses also recorded an exceptional last Saturday of the month (January 29) when 1,605 people visited the 40-acre site - which is home to 200 different animal species.

Zoo director Derek Grove, said: “What a fantastic start to our 85th year. We’re delighted with the visitor figures, which are the best we’ve had for almost four decades.

“It’s been fabulous to see so many people enjoy the zoo during winter, as it's a lovely time to visit as colder climate animals are more active than warmer months when the zoo tends to get busier.

“We’re also really pleased our ongoing free return promotion is proving popular with visitors, as we’ve handed out more than 3,500 tickets already.”

The free return promotion will continue throughout February, offering full-paying guests chance to return for free later in the year.

Events for the zoo's anniversary are also being planned - including a birthday party to mark its 85 years, the opening of new animal exhibits - including the outdoor orangutan enclosure, plus celebrations for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and Commonwealth Games.