Bristol Zoo

Contact Details

Bristol Zoo
Bristol Zoo Gardens, Clifton

Tel: 0117 974 7399

Email: [email protected]

Bristol Zoo is a major UK tourist attraction in the city of Bristol. Because of increased awareness of the need for plant and animal diversity, and in response to the rapid destruction of many of the earth's ecosystems, Bristol Zoo's aim is to conserve endangered species for the benefit of future generations. The work carried out by the zoo and its partners was acknowledged publicly when Bristol was named 'Zoo of the Year' in 2000.

The Society is governed by 12 Trustees who are elected by the shareholders. The Director and Senior Managers report to the Trustees on a regular basis.Awarded ‘Zoo of the Year 2004’ by the Good Britain Guide, Bristol Zoo Gardens has a continuous reputation for excellence, innovation, and dedication to conservation. It’s the fifth oldest zoo in the world and the oldest outside of a capital city, and a long established major tourist attraction in Bristol.

Opened in 1836 by the Bristol, Clifton and West of England Zoological Society, Bristol Zoo is the world's oldest provincial zoo and also the fifth oldest internationally. It is a Victorian walled zoo located between Clifton Down and Clifton College, near Brunel's Clifton Suspension Bridge; it covers a small area by modern standards, but with a considerable number of species. In the 1960s the zoo came to national prominence by appearing in the UK television series, Animal Magic, hosted by the comic animal 'communicator', Johnny Morris.

The zoo's official name is Bristol Zoological Gardens ('Bristol Zoo Gardens' for commercial purposes). This is not in recognition of the flower displays for which the zoo can be justly proud, but recognises the first use of that title at the Regent's Park Zoological Gardens. Bristol, like its earlier London counterpart, includes several original buildings which have been praised for their architectural quirks, despite being unsuitable for the care of animals; the (former) Giraffe House joins the main entrance lodge and the south gates on Guthrie Road as a Grade II listed building.

The old Monkey Temple, done out to look like a southern-Asian temple, is now home to a petting zoo. Most of Bristol Zoo's larger animals have been removed. For example, there is no longer an elephant, giraffe, tiger, camel, hippopotamus (although they do have a pair of Pygmy hippopotamus), bear or zebra. This is because the zoo authorities felt that large animals were not happy in the very limited space that had been allocated to them in the past. However, the zoo does have 300 mammals in its collection, representing 50 species (from a total of over 4,300 mammal species on earth); these include a pair of asiatic lions, okapi, red panda, capybara and a variety of primates.

The zoo also has the world's first 'Twilight' zone, as well as insect and reptile houses, an aquarium, several aviaries and a world-class seal and penguin ‘coast’. Ducks swim on the lakes, while the lake islands are home to gorillas, monkeys, lemurs and pelicans.

This major attraction at the zoo was opened in 1999 and allows South American fur seals, African penguins and Gentoo penguins to be watched both above and below the water. The two pools contain 145,000 gallons (two thirds of a million litres) of salt water, with waves (made by a wave machine), waterfalls, rocks and pebble beaches to simulate their natural habitat.

The attraction is netted over the top to allow Inca terns to be kept in the same enclosure.

The four western lowland gorillas are the largest animals kept at Bristol. As well as an indoor enclosure, they have an island to themselves. Although they are very strong with vicious-looking teeth, gorillas are herbivores and are not aggressive. Nevertheless, their keepers do not enter their island home because zoo policy is to keep the animals' captive environment as similar as possible to that of their natural African habitat.

An extensive redevelopment of the nearby Monkey House, opened in July 2006, gives access to the gorilla island for a new colony of De Brazzas monkeys.Bug World, the zoo's collection of invertebrates (animals without a backbone) includes insects such as locusts, grasshoppers and leaf-cutting ants. Ninety-five percent of the earth's species are invertebrates, including insects, spiders, worms, snails, crabs, jellyfish and corals.

Bristol Zoo's Twilight World was the first such exhibit to offer the daytime visitor the chance to view the twilight behaviour of nocturnal animals. By exchanging night and day, the animals (which are awake during their 'night') can be observed during daylight hours. Computer-controlled lighting ensures a natural transition from night to day and vice versa. Animals that can be seen include fruit bats, sand cats, sloths, blind fish and Naked Mole Rats (Bristol's smallest mammal species).The Aquarium has over 70 species of fish.

It shows three main watery habitats: coral reefs; the Amazon River; and the lakes and rivers of Africa. The Reptile House has lizards, snakes, iguana, turtles and dwarf crocodiles, as well as frogs (amphibians). Visitors can see reptile eggs incubating, this helping to maintain a sustainable captive population.

Most of the species in the walk-through Wallace Aviary are from the Philippines where they are threatened with extinction through loss of habitat, hunting and killing for food. "Zona Brazil", which featurs a variety of South American animals, is another popular walk-through exhibit.

Bristol Zoo supports wildlife conservation and education, and takes part in local, national and international breeding programmes. For example, Bristol works with other zoos around the world to breed lemurs in captivity. Native to Madagascar, the lemurs are critically endangered because their forest habitat is being destroyed.

Closer to home, the zoo has been instrumental in helping to reintroduce the water vole to parts of Southern England. A number of mammals are kept on an additional ‘green-field’ site to the north of Bristol. Plans are afoot to relocate many more species to the Hollywood Tower estate near Cribbs Causeway, as part of a second zoo.

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