The rarely seen archive which shows rich 185-year history of Bristol Zoo

  • Watch Richard Payne's report here.

Rarely before seen footage of Bristol Zoo has been released ahead of its closure later this year - with people being asked to share their own memories.

Bristol Zoo Gardens has gone through its archives to celebrate its 185-year history at 'The Zoo and You, Memory Show and Tell' event which will be held on 28 and 29 May.

It comes ahead of the closure of the Clifton zoo in September. The animals will be moved off site to make way for a housing development before the reopening of a new zoo at the Wild Place Project in 2024.

Most of the archive collection - which features old relics, photographs, film footage, signs and records - have not been shown in public for decades.

Rosie the elephant was used to provide rides for children

Black and white footage shows animals including bears on poles, lions and giraffes.

The film also shows the famous Rosie the elephant - who used to give rides to children - while relics dating back to 1898 have also been uncovered.

Head of public engagement Simon Garrett added: “As we move towards the closure of the Clifton site, it’s important that we mark and celebrate the 185-year history of this famous attraction, and look to the future of the new Bristol Zoo.

A keeper washing an elephant at Bristol Zoo by hand.

“Within our archive rooms, we’ve uncovered and dusted off treasures and thanks to the help of the team at Bristol Culture, we’re excited to reveal some hidden gems that shine a light on the zoo’s history.

“We hope seeing these items will bring back fond memories for visitors, who have enjoyed many a day out at the zoo."

Archive photographs will be on display at the zoo ahead of its closure

Whereas keepers at Bristol Zoo now operate a "hands off" approach, footage from the past shows staff getting incredibly close to animals alongside visitors.

Simon said: "I think it's very interesting, some of the big animals in the past, they had a lot more close interaction with the keepers.

"These days we're very much hands off, these are wild animals. In the past they were much more hands on. I think the animals were stimulated a lot by a lot of interaction with visitors and keepers as well."

A matchbox featuring a white tiger cub is one of many artefacts Credit: ITV News

One of the main reasons Bristol Zoo says it is moving sites is to provide more space for animals at its new home.

The zoo's programme coordinator Scott Raven said: "Over the years our big animals have left us here at Bristol Zoo - and I think that's for the best. It's a 12-acre site, it's too small to house elephants, lions and things like that."

Head of field conservation and science, Dr Grainne McCabe said practices of old would not be repeated today - with the zoo now focused on protecting some of the planet's most endangered species.

"We have a lot of species here and to be able to focus more on fewer species but do much more impactful things for those species is really what we want to do going forward," she said.

"I think most people would agree they think probably that is the better way forward as well even though we absolutely love Bristol Zoo Gardens."