Behind the scenes as Bristol Zoo packs up after 180 years at the historic Clifton site

  • Watch Caron Bell's report

Behind its historic walls, Bristol Zoo is now a very different place from the one most visitors will remember. The hordes of squealing children have gone, the shop shelves are clear and the cafes are silent.

And yet, many of its best-known residents are still here, as is the army of staff needed to look after them. It could take another two years before star attractions like the lions, fur seals and meerkats transfer elsewhere.

The zoo's avenues are largely deserted. Credit: ITV West Country

Tight regulations on breeding and welfare mean that moving zoo animals can be a long and bureaucratic process. But the zoo is confident it can find homes for all of them by 2024.

"Most of our animals are part of strictly-managed breeding programmes," Sarah Gedman, Head of Mammals, told ITV News.

"So there's always a place for these animals to go. We wouldn't have them here at the zoo if there wasn't the possibility for them to go somewhere else."

Staff coax a giant tortoise into a travel box, ready for its move to Jersey Zoo. Credit: ITV West Country

Most of the staff - and the gorillas - will eventually be heading to the Wild Place Project, Bristol Zoo's newer, much larger sister site just north of the city. Here, the zoo argues, the animals will have far more space, and 80 per cent of species will be linked to its conservation work.

The massive redevelopment of Wild Place will be funded by the sale of the Clifton site. Selling 12 acres of Bristol's most upmarket neighbourhood will raise millions for the zoo, even if plans to build houses on part of it have proved highly controversial in the local community.