24 more sleeps – and counting!

The countdown is on at Dudley Zoo – only 24 more sleeps until the big day and Santa’s festive duties are underway.

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ABOVE – And we’re off – Santa arrives at DZG to take his place in our wonderful grotto

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The magical grotto, on a winter wonderland theme, opens today when excited youngsters will be visiting Santa, watching a special show and receiving surprise gifts.

Outside the entrance, an enclosure has been built for some of our reindeer who are being walked up to the Castle courtyard each day to greet our grotto-goers.

LEFT – Santa’s reindeer are all geared up for their busy period

The animals have underdone halter training in their paddock for a couple of weeks to get them used to being walked up to the courtyard.

BELOW – Senior Keepers Sarah Evans and Jodie Dryden walk the reindeer up to the grotto in the Castle courtyard

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Just in time, DZG gardeners have finished putting up 35 Christmas trees around the site, including 17 outside the grotto, and others in and around the Safari Gift Shop and the Oak Kitchen at the Queen Mary Restaurant.

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ABOVE – Head Gardener Carl Stevens makes sure the grotto entrance looks tree-mendous

And some lucky youngsters had an early visit to see Santa when the grotto opened especially for two organised groups, one from Aston Villa’s junior member’s club JV Life and the other from a charity for sick and disabled children in the Midlands, Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.

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Spreading some Christmas cheer until Christmas Eve – Our grotto opens every day until December 24