The site of one of the UK’s oldest zoos will shut for good in September, before moving to a new location.
Bristol Zoo is set to close its doors after 186 years, with many of its animals moving to an existing zoo at a nearby site in south Gloucestershire.
It follows years of financial difficulties for the organisation, compounded by Covid lockdowns, with the old site being largely replaced by new housing.
But a new Bristol Zoo is due to open in 2024.
Since it first opened in 1836, parent company the Bristol Zoological Society estimates that the zoo has welcomed 90 million visitors have and claims to have helped save 175 species from extinction through its conservation programmes.
The Society says that before the Bristol Zoo Gardens site in Clifton closes permanently on September 3, it is planning to hold a series of events for people to share their memories of it.
Dr Justin Morris, the society’s chief executive, explained: ‘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.’
Spokesperson Rob Stokes told Metro.co.uk that some of the animals would be moving to other zoos around the UK and Europe, but with the new site focusing on endangered animals, many of its more vulnerable species will be be at the zoo when it reopens.
Meanwhile, the society’s wildlife park, the Wild Place Project, will host many of the animals until the new Bristol Zoo officially opens in two years’ time.
The decision to sell the old site was announced following England’s second national lockdown, after the zoo had already missed out on revenue from the peak spring and summer months.
But the site had long been struggling with declining visitor numbers before the pandemic hit, having recorded an operating loss in four out of the past six years.
Parts of the old 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 remain, while the zoo’s entrance will be transformed into the ‘Clifton Conservation Hub’ and host the Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project.
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 zoo.
The Wild Place Project, which is near junction 17 of the M5 motorway, will remain open to visitors as normal.
More details of the planned events to remember the Bristol Zoo Gardens site will be announced in the coming weeks.
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