Bristol Zoo

Bristol Zoo is a zoo in the city of Bristol in South West England. The zoo's stated mission is "Bristol Zoo Gardens maintains and defends biodiversity through breeding endangered species, conserving threatened species and habitats and promoting a wider understanding of the natural world".


Opened in 1836 by the Bristol, Clifton and West of England Zoological Society, Bristol Zoo is the world's oldest provincial zoo. It is a Victorian walled zoo located between Clifton Down and Clifton College, near Brunel's Clifton Suspension Bridge; it covers a small area by modern standards, but with a considerable number of species. In the 1960s the zoo came to national prominence by appearing in the UK television series, Animal Magic, hosted by the comic animal 'communicator', Johnny Morris. Morris would play keeper and voice all the animals there.

The zoo's official name is Bristol Zoological Gardens ('Bristol Zoo Gardens' for commercial purposes). This is not in recognition of the flower displays but recognises the first use of that title at the Regent's Park Zoological Gardens. Bristol, like its earlier London counterpart, includes several original buildings which have been praised for their architectural quirks, despite being unsuitable for the care of animals; the (former) Giraffe House joins the main entrance lodge[3] and the south gates on Guthrie Road as a Grade II listed building. The old Monkey Temple, resembling a southern-Asian temple, is now home to an exhibit called "Smarty plants", an interactive exhibit which shows how plants use and manipulate animals to survive.

The zoo also has breeding firsts, including the first black rhino born in Britain in 1958, the first squirrel monkey born in captivity in 1953 and the first chimpanzee born in Europe in 1934.

Animal overview

In recent years Bristol Zoo has rationalised its animal collection to enable the provision of better facilities for its animal collection while maintaining a range of species on view to visitors. As a result, among species now on view at Bristol which are rare or absent in UK zoos are aye aye (of which they have bred two so far, with a juvenile on show), Livingstone's Fruit Bat, and a successful breeding group of Western Lowland Gorillas. In addition there are okapi, which Bristol was one of the first zoos in the world to breed, asiatic lion, pygmy hippo, and red panda, , among the 300 mammals in its collection, representing 50 species (from a total of over 4,300 mammal species on earth)

The zoo's Twilight Zone was the first of its kind when it opened, there are many other indoor exhibits including an insect and reptile house and aquarium meanwhile outside there are several aviaries and a seal and penguin enclosure. Ducks swim on the lakes, while the lakes' islands are home to gorillas, tamarins, marmosets, gibbons and pelicans.

Seal and Penguin Coasts

The Seal and Penguin Coasts, is a major attraction at the zoo, opened in 1999,it allows South American Fur Seals and African Penguins to be watched both above and below the water. The two pools contain 145,000 imperial gallons (660,000 l) of salt water, with waves (made by a wave machine), waterfalls, rocks and pebble beaches to simulate their natural habitat. The exhibit has a large net over the top to allow Inca Terns and Common Eider Ducks to be kept in the same enclosure.

 Explorers' Creek

Explorers' Creek opened in May 2009 and features three areas – a water play area, a tropical bird house and a walk-through Lorikeet feeding area.

 Gorilla Island

Gorilla Island is home to a family of western lowland gorillas, which are the largest animals kept at Bristol Zoo. As well as an indoor house which is also home to Okapi, they have a large island which they share with the De Brazza's monkeys from Monkey Jungle. The Gorillas are herbivores, and are not aggressive. However the keepers do not enter their island home because it is the Zoo's policy to keep the animals' captive environment as similar as possible to that of their natural African forest habitat.

The Terrace

The Terrace is one of the oldest parts of the zoo. It is home to a pair of lions, keas, red pandas, fruit bats and flamingos as well as Twilight World which was the first such exhibit to offer the daytime visitor the chance to view the twilight behaviour of nocturnal animals. By exchanging night and day, the animals (which are awake during their 'night') can be observed during daylight hours. The lights allow a natural transition from night to day and vice versa. Twilight world is split into four zones: the Desert (sand cats, mongooses, rattlesnakes, kangaroo rats and geckos), the Rainforest (slow loris, mouse deer, sloths, owl monkeys, aye-aye, possums and mouse lemurs), the Cave (scorpions, blind cave fish and naked mole rats) and the House (rats and mice).

Reptile House

The Reptile House houses a collection of reptiles and amphibians. The house itself is heated and gives a sense of the heat of the rainforest. There are three sections to the house: Desert (gila monsters, geckos and tortoises), Rainforest (dwarf crocodiles, terrapins and snakes) and the Rearing Room where visitors can view the raising of reptiles and amphibian and also learn about the zoo's conservation work.

Outside, but still considered part of the reptile house, is a giant tortoise and Rhinoceros iguana enclosure where the animals have access to a heated indoor house and an outdoor enclosure.


The Aquarium has around 70 species of fish. The aquarium has three sections: The Amazon River (catfish, pacu and piranha), Africa (chiclids) and the Coral reef (seahorses, corals and fish). On the outside of the building there is a water sculpture.

There are several exhibits of conservation significance on view. Notably, there is a display of endangered cichlids from Lake Barombi Mbo in Cameroon, Africa , and a display of goodeidae from Mexico.

Bug World

Bug World, the zoo's collection of invertebrates (animals without a backbone), includes invertebrates such as Lesser Antilles hercules beetle, mole cricket and Poor Knights' giant weta. Other displays include tarantulas, black widow spiders, giant millipedes, honey bees, leaf-cutting ants and flamboyant flower beetles.

Zona Brazil

Zona Brazil is home to some of the Zoos largest animals. The tropical house has Amazon tree boas and tarantulas. The two monkey enclosures have Geoffrey's marmosets, Black lion tamarins and Titi monkeys

Outside, there are aviaries for Red-tailed Amazon parrots, an enclosure for Golden lion tamarins and three linked paddocks for Tapir and Capybara.

Monkey Jungle and Monkey Islands

In 2006 the zoo opened a new exhibit, Monkey Jungle, which features four new exhibits replacing the old monkey house. An enclosure is home to Red Ruffed Lemurs and Ring-tailed Lemurs where visitors can walk in with the lemurs without any barriers or bars. The other enclosures are home to Lion-tailed Macaques, Black Howlers and De Brazza's Monkeys which also have access to Gorilla Island.

The islands opposite Gorilla Island house a family of Squirrel monkeys, a pair of Agile Gibbon, Saki Monkey and also Golden-headed lion tamarins.

Butterfly House

A Butterfly and Moth house opened at Bristol Zoo in June 2008. The undercover walk-through is housed in a sustainably-heated, climate-controlled polytunnel. Species on show include the blue morpho[disambiguation needed], the glasswing, the Leopard Lacewing and the giant atlas moth.

The exhibit is linked to Butterfly projects run by the zoo in Kenya and Costa Rica. The zoo also supports work to protect the rare silky wave moth in Avon Gorge.


ZooRopia is an aerial ropes course within the zoo grounds. It opened June 2009 The course gives visitors the chance to swing alongside some of the Zoo's most popular inhabitants – gibbons, gorillas and lemurs. It is the first ropes course in Europe that is accessible to children as young as five and set within a zoo.
[edit] Conservation
Eurasian Eagle Owl Bubo bubo and handler, at a flying demonstration

Bristol Zoo supports wildlife conservation, education and breeding programmes worldwide. For example, Bristol works with other zoos around the world to breed lemurs in captivity. Native to Madagascar, the lemurs are critically endangered because their forest habitat is being destroyed.

Bristol Zoo supports the UK/US charity Ape Action Africa, which rescues and rehabilitates primates in Cameroon, West Africa. Closer to home, the zoo has helped to reintroduce the water vole to parts of Southern England.

National Wildlife Conservation Park

A number of mammals are kept on a site to the north of Bristol. There are plans to relocate many more species to the Hollywood Tower estate near Cribbs Causeway, as part of a second zoo.

The new site at Cribbs Causeway will be called the National Wildlife Conservation Park, and will include larger animals than the existing Bristol Zoo. The zoo will be split into biomes, representing species found only in specific habitats. Some of the biomes to be included are Congo Basin Tropical Forest, Central American Swamp, African Savannah, Sumatra Tropical Forest, Nepal Riverine Forest, Coral Reef, British Ancient Woodland and British Wetlands. The species list for each ecosystem has not yet been finalised, but is likely to include Manatees, Crocodiles, Bonobos, Okapi, Bongo, Sumatran tiger, Orang-utan, Giraffe, Zebra, Warthog, Kudu, African hunting dog, Rhinoceros, Brown bear and Wolf.

Plans and information on the new site can be found inside Bug World.
Bristol Hotels, Hotels in Bristol, Places to stay when travelling Bristol, Hotel Bristol United Kingdom, Bristol Accommodation, Accommodation for Visitors in Bristol