Bristol Zoo to leave Clifton site after 185 years

Joe Middleton
·2-min read
Young western lowland gorillas play at Bristol Zoo Gardens. (PA)
Young western lowland gorillas play at Bristol Zoo Gardens. (PA)

Bristol Zoo is set to relocate to the outskirts of the city in order to safeguard its future in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

The site of Bristol Zoo Gardens, in Clifton, will be sold and by late 2022 move to its Wild Place Project in south Gloucestershire.

Bristol Zoological Society announced the move on Friday after the second national lockdown in England forced Bristol Zoo Gardens and the Wild Place Project to shut, following months of closure during the peak spring and summer months.

There have also been declining visitor numbers to Bristol Zoo Gardens recently, with the organisation having made an operating loss in four of the past six years. The zoo has been at Clifton since 1836.

Bristol Zoological Society chief executive Justin Morris said: "This year has been by far the most challenging year the Society has faced in its 185-year history.

"But for many years Bristol Zoo Gardens has been struggling with fundamental and persistent challenges, namely an inability to meet the changing needs of the animals within the available space and infrastructure, and declining visitor numbers.

"These challenges have had an enormous impact on our finances and the impact of Covid-19 has caused us to radically rethink our plans about the future and how we address the fundamental and persistent challenges that we face in order to save Bristol Zoological Society."

Dr Morris said the new strategy presents an opportunity to create a world-class site which will set the standards for a "modern, forward-looking zoo in the 21st century".

He said the new Bristol Zoo will be an immersive experience with conservation and sustainability at its heart, with animals having the space and facilities to "thrive".

New exhibits will link visitors to the society's projects around the world.

Bristol Zoo Gardens will remain open until late 2022, as well as the Wild Place Project. The south Gloucestershire site will become the new Bristol Zoo from early 2024.

Marvin Rees, the mayor of Bristol, commended Bristol Zoo for "tackling this challenge head-on" and taking the decision to move to a more sustainable location with improved facilities.

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