Bristol Zoo set to sell iconic Clifton site

Bristol Zoo is set to sell its iconic Clifton home and relocate to its Wild Place Project site.

Bristol Zoological Society, which owns and operates both Bristol Zoo Gardens and Wild Place Project, says the move is vital to "safeguard the future of the organisation".

It follows years of declining visitor numbers and the organisation having made an operating loss in four of the past six years.

The plans have been announced after two lockdowns forced Bristol Zoo Gardens and Wild Place Project to close.

Bristol Zoo Gardens will remain open until late 2022. 

Wild Place Project will remain open until it becomes the new Bristol Zoo from early 2024.

The Zoo has been open for 185 years. Credit: Bristol Zoological Society


Dr Justin Morris, Chief Executive of Bristol Zoological Society, has described this year as "by far the most challenging year the Society has faced in its 185-year history".

He added: "For many years Bristol Zoo Gardens has been struggling with fundamental and persistent challenges, namely an inability to meet the changing needs of the animals within the available space and infrastructure, and declining visitor numbers.

Bristol Zoological Society says the new Zoo at Wild Place "will be an inspiring, immersive wildlife experience with conservation and sustainability at its heart, where animals will have the space and facilities to thrive".

Dr Morris added: "New exhibits will link visitors to our conservation projects around the world and provide the tools for visitors to become conservationists themselves.

"The new Bristol Zoo will also be a beacon of environmental sustainability, demonstrating and promoting how together we can save wildlife in the way we live our lives."

Development on the Clifton site will include an ‘urban conservation hub’ in the zoo’s main entrance building.

This would become the base of the Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project community and conservation programmes and feature an exhibition of Bristol Zoo Gardens’ heritage and a café.

New housing will be created in areas of the site where there are already built structures, and the existing gardens will be largely unchanged.

Charlotte Moar, Chair of Trustees for Bristol Zoological Society, said everyone at the Society recognises the significance of the decision but that it is unavoidable:

“Over the next five years, even if we were to sell all our property in Clifton, except Bristol Zoo Gardens, and raise £7 million through philanthropic fundraising, we would still have a capital funding shortfall of £8 million.

“Over 20 years this shortfall increases to £44 million and as a result we would not be able to sustain our two zoos, our education programme and our UK and international conservation programme.