The 185-year-old zoo will no longer be in Bristol.
Bristol Zoological Society has announced today that Bristol Zoo Gardens will have to close its Clifton site and relocate to its Wild Place Project site. The charity has unveiled plans to relocate the attraction to the site in South Gloucestershire to create a ‘world-class zoo and safeguard the future of the organisation’.
The new Bristol Zoo will offer spacious, modern facilities, significant growth in conservation and education work and a ground-breaking, innovative visitor experience, said a Bristol Zoological Society spokesperson. To deliver this project and secure the future of Bristol Zoo, the Clifton site, which opened in 1836, will be sold.
Dr Justin Morris, Chief Executive of Bristol Zoological Society, said: “This new strategy presents an opportunity to create a world-class zoo that sets the standard for a modern, forward-looking zoo in the 21st century. It will be an inspiring, immersive wildlife experience with conservation and sustainability at its heart, where animals will have the space and facilities to thrive.
“New exhibits will link visitors to our conservation projects around the world and provide the tools for visitors to become conservationists themselves. The new Bristol Zoo will also be a beacon of environmental sustainability, demonstrating and promoting how together we can save wildlife in the way we live our lives.”
This closure of the oldest provincial zoo follows years of declining visitor numbers to Bristol Zoo Gardens and the organisation having made an operating loss in four of the last six years. The plans have been announced after the second lockdown forced Bristol Zoo Gardens and Wild Place Project to close, after months of closure during the peak spring and summer months.
Dr 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.
“We know that Bristol Zoo Gardens has a special place in the hearts of many, and lots of people have fond memories of visiting the Zoo. But a lot has changed and many of the animals associated with these memories are no longer at Bristol Zoo Gardens, for very valid reasons.”
The Executive Board and Trustees of Bristol Zoological Society will be leading a planning permission process for the Clifton site and it will include an ‘urban conservation hub’ in the zoo’s iconic main entrance building to ensure the heritage and story of the Clifton site will continue to be told.
This would also become the base of the Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project community and conservation programmes, an exhibition of Bristol Zoo Gardens’ heritage and a café. New housing will be created in areas of the site where there are already built structures, and the existing gardens will be largely unchanged.
Bristol Zoo Gardens will remain open until late 2022 and visitors will not see an immediate change while plans are developed further. Wild Place Project will remain open throughout this time, until it becomes the new Bristol Zoo from early 2024.