Bristol Zoo

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Bristol Zoological Gardens
Bristol Zoo logo.png
Bristol Zoo Gardens Main Entrance.jpg
Main entrance
Date opened1836
LocationBristol, England
Coordinates51°27′48″N 2°37′20″W / 51.46333°N 2.62222°W / 51.46333; -2.62222Coordinates: 51°27′48″N 2°37′20″W / 51.46333°N 2.62222°W / 51.46333; -2.62222
Land area12 acres (4.9 ha)
No. of animals7155 (2007)[1]
No. of species419 (2007)
Annual visitors478,126 (2018)[2]
MembershipsThe Bristol, Clifton and West of England Zoological Society
Major exhibitsZona Brazil, Seal and Penguin Coasts, Gorilla Island

Bristol Zoo is a zoo in the city of Bristol in South West England. The zoo's stated mission is to "[maintain and defend] biodiversity through breeding endangered species, conserving threatened species and habitats and promoting a wider understanding of the natural world".[3]

Penguins at Bristol Zoo
South American fur seal seen through the observation windows at Seal and Penguin Coasts, Bristol Zoo.

The mammal collection at the zoo numbers around 300, representing 50 species, including: gorillas, Asiatic lions, pygmy hippos, and red pandas. Among species now on view at Bristol which are rare or absent in other UK zoos are Livingstone's fruit bats, aye ayes and quolls.

The zoo's Twilight Zone was the first of its kind when it opened, there are many other indoor exhibits including an insect and reptile house and aquarium meanwhile outside there are several aviaries and a seal and penguin enclosure. The lakes' islands are home to gorillas, tamarins, marmosets, gibbons and spider monkeys.

Animal exhibits[edit]

  • Seal and Penguin Coasts is a major attraction at the zoo; opened in 1999, it allows South American fur seals and African penguins to be watched both above and below the water. The most notable of these African Penguins being CGP Grey the penguin named after internet personality CGP Grey, CGP Grey the penguin died in 2017 (No exact date was given but was first reported on May 13, 2017).[4] The two pools contain 145,000 imperial gallons (660,000 l) of salt water, with waves, waterfalls, rocks and pebble beaches to simulate the natural habitat. The exhibit has a large net over the top to allow Inca terns and common eiders to be kept in the same enclosure.
  • Forest of Birds opened in May 2009 and features exotic plants and free-flying birds from south-East Asia.
  • Gorilla Island is home to a family of western lowland gorillas, which are the largest animals kept at Bristol Zoo. One silverback, Jock as well as Kera, Kukena, Romina, Salome and Touni. In February 2016, Kera's first baby Afia was born after an emergency caesarean section. In April 2017, Touni gave birth to baby Ayana. As well as an indoor house, they have a large island. Despite the gorilla's herbivorous diet, keepers do not enter the same space as the apes. This is because not only is there a great risk of injury with these powerful primates, but they also want to let the gorillas socialize on their own without human interference.
  • The Top Terrace is one of the oldest parts of the zoo. It is home to a pair of Asiatic lions, keas, red pandas, Livingstone's fruit bats and flamingos.
  • 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. The lights allow a natural transition from night to day and vice versa. Twilight world is split into four zones: the Desert (sand cats, mongooses, the Rainforest (slow loris, mouse deer, quolls, aye-ayes, Cuscuses and mouse lemurs), the Cave (scorpions, blind cave fish and naked mole rats) and the House (rats and mice).
  • The Reptile House houses a collection of reptiles and amphibians. The house itself is heated and gives a sense of the heat of the rainforest. There are three sections to the house: Desert (Gila monsters, geckos and tortoises), Rainforest (dwarf crocodiles, terrapins and snakes) and the Rearing Room where visitors can view the raising of reptiles and amphibian and also learn about the zoo's conservation work. Outside, but still considered part of the reptile house, is a giant tortoise and rhinoceros iguana enclosure where the animals have access to a heated indoor house and an outdoor enclosure.
  • The Aquarium has around 70 species of fish. The aquarium has three sections: The Amazon River (catfish, pacu and piranha), Africa (cichlids) and the coral reef (seahorses, corals and various species of fish). On the outside of the building there is a water sculpture. There are several exhibits of conservation significance on view. Notably, there is a display of endangered cichlids from Lake Barombi Mbo in Cameroon and a display of goodeids from Mexico and paddlefish and alligator gar from North America.
The South East Asia tank in the zoo aquarium.


Opened in 1836 by the Bristol, Clifton and West of England Zoological Society, Bristol Zoo is the world's oldest provincial zoo. 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. Morris would play keeper and voice all the animals there.

The zoo's official name is Bristol Zoological Gardens ('Bristol Zoo Gardens' for commercial purposes). This is not in recognition of the flower displays 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[5] joins the main entrance lodge[6] and the south gates on Guthrie Road[7] as a Grade II listed building. The old Monkey Temple, resembling a southern-Asian temple, is now home to an exhibit called "Smarty plants", an interactive exhibit which shows how plants use and manipulate animals to survive.

The zoo also has breeding firsts, including the first black rhino born in Britain in 1958, the first squirrel monkey born in captivity in 1953 and the first chimpanzee born in Europe in 1934.

In December 2014, the zoo lost three endangered animals after two fatal accidents, including one involving a male Warty Pig which killed its own offspring and afterwards attacking its mate, who had to be put down due to the injuries. The keepers were not aware that they had mated, nor that the female was due to give birth. In a separate incident a few days later, a Golden Lion Tamarin fell from a branch in its enclosure into some water, where it became stuck and eaten by the zoo's group of North American Otters. Both incidents were described as unprecedented, unheard of and freak accidents by the zoo staff.[8]


Bristol Zoo supports wildlife conservation, education and breeding programmes worldwide. 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.

Bristol Zoo supports the UK/US charity Ape Action Africa, which rescues and rehabilitates primates in Cameroon, West Africa.[9]

Closer to home, the zoo has helped to reintroduce the water vole and the white-clawed crayfish to parts of Southern England.

Wild Place Project[edit]

A number of mammals are kept on a site to the north of Bristol and there are plans to relocate many more species to the Hollywood Tower estate near Cribbs Causeway, as part of a second zoo.

The new site is called the Wild Place Project, and is designed to house larger animals than the existing Bristol Zoo. The zoo is split into biomes, representing species found only in specific habitats. Current areas include: Secret Congo, British Ancient Woodland, Discover Madagascar and the latest addition - Benoue National Park. The species list currently includes: okapi, red river hog, Sudan cheetah, zebra, common eland, gelada baboon, Kirk's dik-dik, giraffe, wolverine, eurasian lynx, grey wolf, and a new brown bear.

Some of the biomes to be included are: Central American Swamp, Sumatra Tropical Forest, Nepal Riverine Forest, Coral Reef and British Wetlands. The species list for each ecosystem has not yet been finalised, but is likely to include manatees, crocodiles, bonobos, bongo, Bengal tiger, orangutan, warthog, lion, kudu, African hunting dog and rhinoceros.

The site officially opened on 22 July 2013 as Wild Place Project.[10]

Event hosting[edit]

The WOMAD music festival came to the zoo in 2011,[11][12][13][14][15][16] with a subsequent event in 2012.[17][18][19]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bristol Zoo Annual Report 2007 Archived 6 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "ALVA - Association of Leading Visitor Attractions". Retrieved 28 July 2019.
  3. ^ "Bristol Zoological Gardens Strategic Plan 2008-2018". Bristol, Clifton and West of England Zoological Society Limited. Archived from the original on 7 August 2016. Retrieved 5 August 2016.
  4. ^ Haran, Brady. "Dr". Hello internet. Hello internet. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  5. ^ "Bristol Zoological Gardens, Giraffe House". Retrieved 18 December 2006.
  6. ^ "Bristol Zoological Gardens entrance". Retrieved 18 December 2006.
  7. ^ "South entrance gates and screen walls to Bristol Zoological Gardens". Retrieved 18 December 2006.
  8. ^ "Rare animals killed at Bristol Zoo". BBC News. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  9. ^ Bristol Zoo website – Bristol Zoo presents gorilla sculpture to Cameroon school children – 14/04/11 Archived 17 April 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ New Bristol attraction opens 22 July | The Wild Place Project Archived 6 August 2013 at the Wayback Machine.
  11. ^ Bristol Zoo teams up with Womad for summer spectacular – Bristol24-7 Archived 24 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine. (17 March 2011).
  12. ^ AN evening of music from around the world will be staged at Bristol Zoo this summer as it teams up with the WOMAD festival for a unique concert.. This is Bristol (18 March 2011).
  13. ^ Bristol Zoo teams up with WOMAD to offer a wild music festival – 17/03/11 | Bristol Zoo Archived 22 March 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Final acts revealed for WOMAD music festival at Bristol Zoo. Visit Bristol.
  15. ^ Trio of acts complete line-up for zoo's summer world music event Archived 5 May 2013 at This is Bristol (24 May 2011).
  16. ^ Bristol University | School of Biological Sciences | Womad at Bristol Zoo. (2 June 2011).
  17. ^ WOMAD Festival returns to Bristol Zoo Gardens for another musical extravaganza – Bristol24-7 Archived 18 January 2013 at (16 March 2012).
  18. ^ Music festival returns to the zoo. This is Bristol (9 May 2012).
  19. ^ At Bristol Zoo 2012 » Festivals Archived 16 April 2013 at WOMAD (22 June 2013).

External links[edit]