One of UK’s oldest zoos to shut after 186 years

Bristol Zoo Gardens will close for good on September 3 this year, with a new site set to open in south Gloucestershire.

15 February 2022

One of the UK’s oldest zoos will close the doors of its 186-year-old site for good in September, with all its animals set to move to a new location.

The Bristol Zoological Society said Bristol Zoo Gardens in Clifton will shut permanently on September 3, having been open to the public since 1836.

It is moving to the site of the society’s wildlife park, the Wild Place Project, in south Gloucestershire.

Since it first opened, the zoo has received an estimated 90 million visitors and helped save 175 species from extinction through its conservation programmes.

Alfred the gorilla in 1947 (Bristol Zoological Society/PA)

The decision to sell the site was announced after the second national lockdown in England, after the zoo had already missed out on revenue from the peak spring and summer months.

The zoo had already been struggling with declining visitor numbers before the pandemic hit, with the organisation having made an operating loss in four out of the past six years.

The Bristol Zoological Society has planned a number of events ahead of the closing date for people to share their memories of the site, which will be announced over the coming weeks.

Dr Justin Morris, the society’s chief executive, said: “Bristol Zoo Gardens is a special place for so many people and we want to give them a chance to come, to see our animals and the gardens and to talk about their memories.”

Monkey Temple
The monkey temple will remain standing once the zoo moves (Bristol Zoological Society/PA)

After the move, parts of the site are due to be developed into housing, with the gardens themselves to be open to the public free of charge.

The children’s play area and theatre building will also be kept open as a community space for workshops and events.

The famous monkey temple will also be left standing, while the zoo’s entrance will be transformed into the “Clifton Conservation Hub” hosting the Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project.

Surrogate mum Kera cuddling infant Hasani at Bristol Zoo Gardens
Surrogate mum Kera cuddling infant Hasani at Bristol Zoo Gardens (Bristol Zoological Society/PA)

Dr Morris said: “This is our legacy. Our way of guaranteeing that people throughout the Bristol area will still be able to enjoy the gardens for generations to come.

“They will remain an important destination for people to visit and enjoy.”

The money from the sale of the site will be used to pay for the new Bristol Zoo, which is due to open in 2024.

The Wild Place Project, which is near junction 17 of the M5 motorway, will be open to visitors as normal while the zoo is built.

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