For more than 185 years, Bristol Zoological Society has been on the cutting edge of what it means to run a conservation-focused zoo. Given this long history, we feel that we are better placed than most to define what zoos should look like in the 21st Century.
We have a unique opportunity at our 136-acre Bristol Zoo Project site to create a new conservation zoo where visitors and animals will be immersed in the natural landscape.
Over the next few years, Bristol Zoological Society will deliver this vision and create an inspiring visitor attraction where around 80 percent of species will be linked to our conservation work around the world, living in spaces more closely reflecting their natural habitats.
Conservation zoos have a critical role to play in engaging communities and providing unique opportunities for people to connect with wildlife, saving threatened species through dedicated international conservation actions and breeding programmes.
To deliver on this opportunity, support our mission of Saving Wildlife Together and safeguard the Society’s future, we have sold the West Car Park site in Clifton and are planning to sell our other properties in Clifton, including the former Bristol Zoo Gardens site.
We are proposing to create two new immersive landscapes, which connect people to threatened wildlife and animals:
This new habitat will become home to our existing troop of western lowland gorillas, who will be joined by a new group of Endangered cherry crowned mangabeys. Other new species will include Endangered African grey parrots, Critically Endangered slender-snouted crocodiles, freshwater fish and, in future years, okapi and mandrill.
This newly created area will include lead species of black rhinos and ostriches, joining giraffe and zebra.
Both habitats have been chosen to complement the natural landscape and character of our site, in keeping with the dense forest and landscape of Equatorial Guinea and the open savannah of northern Cameroon. Each will have integrated learning spaces, enabling students, visitors and schoolchildren to observe, record and appreciate animals in a natural scene.
We will also be creating new admissions, retail, catering and play facilities to provide the best visitor experience possible.
We will also create a new Conservation Campus, providing animal breeding facilities for highly threatened species, and conservation and veterinary medicine facilities for teaching and animal welfare.
The campus will include a range of conservation and life science teaching spaces while providing a base for the Society’s field conservation programmes, from which we will continue to deliver more than 30 conservation projects in nine countries across four continents.
Public transport and active travel are central to our future plans. We will be investing nearly £2m to improve the public highway, which includes changes to enable new safe routes to the zoo for pedestrians and cyclists, as well as dedicated entrances for them onto the site.
We are partnering with a range of organisations to drive sustainable travel and negotiate additional bus services to the site. As a result of conversations with First and Stagecoach, we have introduced into the design for the site, a bus and coach on-site pick up and drop off area.
We will also provide secure bike parking and new EV charging.
To fund the creation of a new conservation zoo at Bristol Zoo Project, Bristol Zoological Society is selling its Clifton properties. This includes the West Car Park, which is now sold, and the Bristol Zoo Gardens site with planning permission, which was granted by Bristol City Council in April 2023.
The new Bristol Zoo Project will be an inspiring, immersive wildlife experience with conservation 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.
In addition to those animals that are moving from Bristol Zoo Gardens, there will be a number of new species at the zoo. Within the new Central African Forest habitat, which will become home to our existing gorilla troop, there will be a new group of Endangered cherry-crowned mangabey monkeys. We will also introduce Endangered African grey parrots, Critically Endangered slender-snouted crocodiles and extremely rare species of West African fish, which visitors will be able to see in a new underwater viewing area.
We will create a new entrance building, which will include a new café and shop. We will be investing in the site and making visits accessible to all.
Closing Bristol Zoo Gardens wasn’t an easy decision, but we do not believe the 12-acre Clifton site is fit for purpose as a modern, conservation focused zoo. With 136-acres at Bristol Zoo Project, we can improve animal welfare, creating larger areas that better reflect the animals’ natural habitats.
We went through a rigorous process to explore a number of options as well as taking independent professional advice from a range of sources to ensure we are taking the best possible course of action to deliver on our mission of Saving Wildlife Together.
Our Board of Trustees voted unanimously in favour of this plan and it has the backing of the Society’s Directors and Chairs of Trustees from the last 20 years, who have helped shape this new vision. The move to one site at Bristol Zoo Project is about prioritising animal welfare and conservation and our vision for what we think a zoo should be.
We realise the significance of the decision to close Bristol Zoo Gardens and recognise that many people have very special memories of it. However, a lot has changed and many of the animals associated with these memories are no longer at Bristol Zoo Gardens, for very valid reasons.
We want to create a world-class zoo that sets the standard for a modern, forward-looking zoo in the 21st century – something we will all be proud of and where new memories can be made for generations to come. This new plan creates an exciting new chapter for Bristol Zoological Society.
We need to look beyond local authority boundaries to achieve our conservation mission and to offer the people of Bristol and the West of England, a world-class zoo.
While some animals have moved to Bristol Zoo Project, we made a deliberate choice not to relocate all of the animals from Bristol Zoo Gardens, so we can focus our limited resources on the species that most need protecting. We have found homes for all species not moving to Bristol Zoo Project, at other zoos and aquariums, which are part of well-established, cooperative breeding programmes.
We have developed a new Species Plan and 80% of species at the new Bristol Zoo Project will be directly connected to our conservation work.
We are taking a phased approach to building the new Bristol Zoo, at our 136-acre site, which is just off the M5 at Junction 17. The first phase of development is expected to start in 2024, with the creation of the Central African Forest habitat, which will become home to our troop of western lowland gorillas.