A NEW major Madagascan habitat is set to open to the public this weekend at Chester Zoo.

Based on the world's fourth largest island, Madagascar, the new habitat will contain four rare species of lemur and a mysterious cat like carnivore called the fossa alongside a vast array of weird and wonderful wildlife.

The 6,000 sq metre habitat will recreate the African nation's unique landscapes and its conservation stories.

Conservation breeding specialists at the zoo have never cared for Madagascar's top predator the fossa before so the new zone will be the first place for visitors to learn about this rare animal first hand.

With wild numbers plummeting, the fossa moves so swiftly through trees that scientists have trouble researching and observing the species.

There will also be the zoo's first ever 'walk-through' primate experience which will give visitors the chance to take a trip into the dry forest which is home to five critically endangered red ruffed lemurs and 12 endangered ring-tailed lemurs.

Also being cared for in the huge new habitats are four endangered crowned lemurs, alongside a pair of black lemurs, another animal that is vulnerable to extinction in the wild.

Chief executive officer at Chester Zoo, Dr Mark Pilgrim said: “For many years we have been fighting to protect threatened habitats in Madagascar, working side-by-side with local communities and conservation partners in the country.

"It’s the world’s most biodiverse island, home to some of the most beautiful species on Earth, but the future of wildlife there is perilous.

"Recreating large-scale, unique Madagascan habitats for rare lemurs and fossa, right here in Chester, is an important part of our global conservation plan.

“As an education charity, we passionately hope it will inspire a nation of conservationists here in the UK too.”

The large-scale development is part of a campaign by the conservation and education charity to raise awareness of the threats faced by wildlife.

More than 1,100 shrubs, 50 trees and 360 different grasses have been specially grown to be planted by the zoo’s botany and horticulture experts.

The environment has been created to provide world-class habitats for the animals living there, while also creating a true-to-life experience for nature lovers.