BROWN bears will soon be returning to Dudley Zoo after visitors voted to bring them back.

Up to four bears could return to the zoo's Bear Ravine thanks to a £250,000 project to reinstate them in an updated and expanded enclosure.

Curator Richard Brown is currently in contact with Bojnice Zoo in Slovakia, which takes in orphaned bears, to ask for a breeding group of three or four bears to the Castle Road in spring 2020.

Visitors throughout 2018 who contributed Gift Aid were each given a token to to vote for one of major projects involving either bears, chimps or orangs.

The proposal to return bears to the Berthold Lubetkin Bear Ravine was declared the winner in December, after the 1930's style building was restored as part of a Heritage Lottery Fund project in 2015.

Zoo Director Derek Grove said: “Giving the visitors who support us through donations chance to vote on their preferred development project is our way of gauging what people would like to see at the zoo.

“I’m delighted this has proved the winning project, as not only are we returning a popular species to the zoo but we’ll be bringing the Bear Ravine back into use.

He added: “A section of the Modernist structure will form part of the perimeter and we intend to incorporate the banked area behind the Bear Ravine into the enclosure, giving the bears access to mature trees.”

The improvements to the enclosure will include the addition of a new indoor house and a large climbing frame.