Clifton property is to be sold and the zoo is moving to its Wild Place project in South Gloucestershire
The world’s oldest surviving provincial zoo is being relocated from its prime location in Bristol, where it has lived for nearly two centuries, due to the financial shock of the coronavirus crisis.
Bristol Zoo Gardens, 12 acres in the Clifton borough, is to be sold and animals and employees moved to the Wild Place Project satellite site across the border in South Gloucestershire.
The number of visitors to the zoo gardens has been going down for some time, and the Bristol Zoological Society charity, which operates the sites, said it had lost operations in four of the last six years. The stress of Covid seems to have been the last straw.
The charity executive director Justin Morris said, “This year was by far the most challenging year the company has faced in its 185-year history. But for many years Bristol Zoo Gardens has faced fundamental and ongoing challenges, namely the inability to meet the changing needs of animals within the available space and infrastructure, and declining visitor numbers.
« These challenges have had a tremendous impact on our finances and the impact of Covid-19 has led us to radically rethink our plans and the way we are addressing the fundamental and ongoing challenges. ”
Morris said the charity had plans to build a world-class « modern, forward-looking zoo » on a much larger site, with a focus on conservation and sustainability.
Homes are likely to be built in areas of the Clifton site where structures are already in place, while the existing gardens remain largely unchanged.
The animals will be moved to the new location, which will simply be renamed Bristol Zoo or relocated to other zoos and aquariums. The most famous animals, the western lowland gorillas, will be moved to the new location.
Generations of Bristolians have visited the old site and its closure will be heavily felt across the city, but the mayor, Marvin Rees, said it was an opportunity too.
« The move provides Bristol with a unique opportunity to develop homes on the premises and I am reassured by the zoo’s commitment not only to working with the local council but also to ensuring that any potential developer understands the need to build the homes Keeping and protecting gardens, only buildings that have been buildings in, and affordable housing on the premises – something that is hard to come by in Clifton, ”Rees said.
Toby Savage, chairman of South Gloucestershire Council, said he was « really excited » about the relocation plans. “The new location offers a lot more space, which is more suitable for a modern zoo and will help society develop its conservation and education projects. ”
The Clifton site is expected to close to visitors in late 2022. The new Bristol Zoo is slated to open in 2024 and the Wild Place project will remain open non-stop.
Bristol Zoo Gardens, Wild Place Project, Clifton
World News – UK – Bristol Zoo is leaving its location after 185 years in the Covid crisis
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