Inspiring Bristol and saving wildlife together

Justin Morris is pictured, smiling, with leaves in the background.
Today’s guest blog is from
Justin Morris, Chief Executive
of Bristol Zoological Society.

In 2022, The World Wide Fund for Nature documented a 69% average loss in the abundance of mammal, bird, reptile, fish, and amphibian species since 1970. Figures like these are shocking, but there is hope. People around the world are willing to act.

In December last year at COP15, governments from around the world agreed a new set of goals to tackle nature loss – including a target to protect 30% of nature on Earth by 2030.

At Bristol Zoological Society we are determined to play our part. We know conservation zoos have an important role to play, to address this ecological crisis.

From their beginnings in the ancient world, where animals were used to show off wealth and power, to becoming brilliant days out for families, zoos have come a long way. However, they now have an even more vital role in wildlife conservation, education and research – connecting people to nature, engaging and inspiring the conservationists of the future, and working directly with communities around the world to save wildlife.

That’s why the Bristol Zoo Project, up at our new 136 acre site, will be much more than an exciting visitor destination.

A bear is photographed yawning, with a log in the background.

At the heart of the new zoo is a new species plan, deliberately designed to focus our work on the species that most need protecting. Initially, at least 80 percent of species will be linked to our conservation work and live in spaces that more closely reflect their natural habitats. We intend to increase this percentage further over time.

This means saying goodbye to some familiar animals. It’s a big step. But it also means more focus on species where we can have the biggest impact. Such as the blue-eyed black lemur, Polynesian tree snail, Mindanao bleeding heart dove, black rhinoceros, North African red necked ostrich, and Grevy’s zebra.

Our education and research programmes will grow significantly with a new conservation campus at the new Zoo; and our conservation work will increase in the South West and around the world. 

Two giraffe are pictured, with trees in the background.

Our long history at the forefront of the development of zoos means Bristol Zoological Society is better placed than most to define what zoos should look like in the 21st Century. We have constantly changed and evolved since Bristol Zoo Gardens opened to the public in 1836. Many species were successfully bred there over the years.

In the early 1960s Bristol Zoo was the first zoo in the UK to home Okapi and, in 1967, the first to successfully breed them through a coordinated programme with a small number of progressive zoos – this programme became the pre-cursor to what we today know as conservation breeding programmes.

We want to stay faithful to this history of innovation. With the people of Bristol, we want to save wildlife together.

Three Lynx are pictured lying on logs, with trees in the background.