Attractions industry news

03 Jan 2021

Bristol zoo to leave its historic city site after 185 years

The owner of Bristol Zoo, one of the world’s oldest zoos, has revealed plans to leave its city-centre site and relocate all operations to a sister site 10 miles away.

Citing the financial shock caused by the pandemic, Bristol Zoological Society (BZS) said it will move Bristol Zoo to its Wild Place Project site in South Gloucestershire, in order to safeguard the future of the organisation.

The current Bristol Zoo Gardens site, an 12-acre plot in the Clifton area of the city, will be sold and turned into housing and an ‘urban conservation hub’.

The decision to relocate was announced after the second lockdown forced Bristol Zoo Gardens and Wild Place Project to close – and follows years of declining visitor numbers to Bristol Zoo.

The organisation had already been making operating losses in four of the last six years and COVID-19 had placed further pressure on it, as it was forced to close its doors during the peak UK spring and summer months.

BZS will now set out on a planning permission process to relocate the main zoo to the Wild Place site.

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.

Dr Justin Morris, Chief Executive of Bristol Zoological Society, 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.

“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.”

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