Bristol Zoo forced to shut its doors for good due coronavirus impact

The oldest surviving provincial zoo in the world is moving to secure the future of the organization in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

Bristol Zoological Society announced Friday that the grounds of Bristol Zoo Gardens in Clifton, which have been open to the public since 1836, will be sold.

It will close in late 2022 and move to the association’s Wild Place Project in south Gloucestershire.

The move was announced after the second national lockdown in England forced the Bristol Zoo Gardens and Wild Place Project to close, after months of closure during the peak spring and summer months.

There are also declining visitor numbers Bristol Zoo Gardens recently, with the organization incurring an operational loss in four of the past six years.

Justin Morris, Managing Director of the Bristol Zoological Society, said: “This year was by far the most challenging year the Society has had in its 185-year history.

“But Bristol Zoo Gardens has faced fundamental and ongoing challenges for years, namely the inability to meet the changing needs of the animals within the space and infrastructure available, 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 for the future and how we are addressing the fundamental and ongoing challenges we face to save Bristol Zoological Society . “

Dr. Morris said the new strategy offers an opportunity to create a world-class site that will set the standards for a “modern, future-oriented zoo in the 21st century.”

He said the new Bristol Zoo will be an immersive experience with conservation and sustainability at its core, with animals having the space and facilities to “thrive”.

New exhibits will connect visitors with the projects of society around the world.

The association, which is a registered charity, has 178 active shareholders who elect a board of 12 independent trustees to run it.

All 12 administrators recently voted unanimously to support the zoo’s relocation.

A planning permission process will now take place to ensure that the future of the Clifton site is “something the organization will be proud of” and leaves a lasting legacy of the zoo, a spokeswoman said.

This will include an urban conservation center in the main entrance building of the zoo, which will also become the foundation of the Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project community and conservation programs.

There will also be an exhibition of the zoo’s heritage and a cafe.

New homes will be created on parts of the site where structures have already been built and the existing gardens will remain largely unaltered.

Bristol Zoo Gardens will remain open until the end of 2022, as will the Wild Place Project. The South Gloucestershire site will become the new Bristol Zoo in early 2024.

Charlotte Moar, president of trustees of Bristol Zoological Society, said: “This decision has not been taken lightly and follows a rigorous process of reviewing the strategic options over several months, as well as independent professional advice from a range of sources to ensure we do the best possible for the future of the Society.

“Even if we sold all of our properties in Clifton, with the exception of Bristol Zoo Gardens, in the next five years and raised £ 7 million through philanthropic fundraising, we would still have a capital shortfall of £ 8 million.

“In 20 years, this deficit will reach £ 44 million and as a result we would not be able to maintain our two zoos, our education program and our UK and international conservation program.

“This new plan will ensure that Bristol Zoo will survive for generations to come and will give millions more people the chance to experience the magic of a new Bristol Zoo.”

To follow Bristol Live’s blog for more coverage on the closure.