DUDLEY Zoo has revealed £555,000 plans for 2018 which include introducing brand new species to the collection and a summer beach for youngsters to enjoy.

Naked mole rats will be the first new additions - a colony from Chester Zoo who will take up residence in a soon-to-be-built burrow system in the chimpanzee indoor viewing area.

The new exhibit, which is expected to be complete for February half term, will feature glass-fronted panels so visitors will get a clear view of the weird and wonderful critters.

In time for the Easter holidays, zoo bosses hope a £30,000 refurbishment of the outdoor farm area will be complete, including new animals and children’s play equipment, closely followed by the unveiling of a new Binturong enclosure in the area of the yellow mongoose exhibit.

With a height of 4.5m, the exhibit will allow the ground-dwelling yellow mongoose and a new male Binturong – an arboreal species – to live together, with the enclosure including new glass viewing windows, housing and climbing frame.

Work is expected to then turn to the new Prevost’s squirrel exhibit, which will replace the two currently empty squirrel enclosures on the lower zoo site and house six males from Chester Zoo.

A new area will also be created in Lemur Wood specifically for the black lemur group, which will allow visitors to get a better view of the family.

Other plans for the next 12 months include extending the camel paddock around the adventure playground, improving the Brazilian tapir enclosure, updating the Castle Creature exhibit, completing work on the parrot aviaries and carrying out the winning £250,000 project from the 2017 visitor vote.

Additionally, the toilets will be revamped, a viewing platform will be built over the lion enclosure and over the summer holidays, the former sensory garden area will be transformed into a beach, complete with buckets and spades to entertain young visitors.

Zoo director, Derek Grove, said: “Throughout 2018 we’re continuing to carry out improvements to the zoo which will hugely benefit our animals and visitors and we’re looking forward to bringing in brand new and interesting species to Dudley Zoo.

"We’re confident they will be popular additions to our collection.”