Flowers in bloom

New Director of Transformation for Bristol Zoological Society

We have appointed a Director of Transformation to help deliver the Society’s ambitious new strategic plan.

Francesca Fryer, an experienced estates professional, joined the Society in March this year to lead the transformation programme to create a new Bristol Zoo.

Portrait of Francesca Fryer Director of Transformation at Bristol Zoological Society
Francesca Fryer, Director of Transformation at Bristol Zoological Society

In November 2020 Bristol Zoological Society, which operates Bristol Zoo Gardens and Wild Place Project, announced its new strategic vision for the organisation, to safeguard its future. 

This will see the closure of Bristol Zoo Gardens in Clifton in late 2022, and the creation of a new Bristol Zoo on the site of Wild Place Project, which will open in 2024.

The new Bristol Zoo will see the creation of a world-class zoo with spacious, modern facilities, significant growth in conservation and education work and a ground-breaking, innovative visitor experience.

The Society’s strategic announcement came following the huge financial impacts of COVID-19 on the charity, which saw Bristol Zoo Gardens and Wild Place Project closed for much of 2020 and 2021. 

These closures, and the resulting financial losses, further compounded the effects of years of declining visitor numbers to Bristol Zoo Gardens and the organisation having made an operating loss in four of the last six years.

The new strategy aims to safeguard the charity for generations to come, offering millions more people the opportunity to experience the new, transformed Bristol Zoo from 2024. 

As well as leading on the creation of the new Bristol Zoo, Francesca will also oversee the sale of Bristol Zoo Gardens and other Society-owned properties in Clifton.

Francesca was previously Director of Estates at University College London (UCL), implementing its £1Bn estate transformation programme as well as managing the day-to-day operation of the Bloomsbury campus.

Prior to that she worked at the BBC and Ministry of Defence in strategic transformation roles, as well as working in the private sector for more than 20 years, advising many of the world’s leading companies on their real estate portfolios.

Francesca said: “It is a hugely exciting time to be joining Bristol Zoological Society. In this role I have an amazing opportunity to help the Society realise its strategic ambitions as a leading conservation charity and to create a world-class zoo that resets the standard for a modern, forward-looking zoo in the 21st century.

“I’m looking forward to playing a part in helping the organisation achieve even greater success through its conservations programmes both here and in the field and through expanded educational programmes. 

“What we will create with the new Bristol Zoo will be something Bristol can be proud of, and that future generations can enjoy for many years to come.”

Under the new strategy, plans for the Bristol Zoo Gardens site in Clifton include creating an ‘urban conservation hub’ in the zoo’s iconic main entrance building to ensure the heritage and story of the Clifton site will continue to be told.  

This would also become the base of the Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project community and conservation programmes, as well as an exhibition of Bristol Zoo Gardens’ heritage and a café.

Francesca, who has two teenage children, said she has fond memories of bringing her own  children to Bristol Zoo Gardens when they were younger. “Many people, myself included, have a personal affinity with Bristol Zoo Gardens,” she said. 

“The passion that people have for Bristol Zoo Gardens is huge – it is such a unique and special site. As such, I understand the significance of our new strategy and what it means to people. 

“Equally, the opportunity that we are presented with at the Wild Place Project site is huge. The nature and scale of the site is amazing. It is a fantastic canvas to work with, to really showcase our expertise and our conservation values while offering more space for the animals, for nature and a truly fantastic visitor experience.

“This is undoubtedly one of the most exciting times in the charity’s 186-year history, and I am thrilled to now be a part of the next exciting chapter.”

Dr Justin Morris, Chief Executive of Bristol Zoological Society, said: “We are delighted to welcome Francesca to the Executive Board at such an exciting and important time for Bristol Zoological Society.

“We have created this new position within the organisation because we are about to embark upon this extraordinary transformation project and we need people with the right experience to help us achieve it.  

“Francesca brings a real depth of experience and her combination of skills are exactly what we need within the organisation at this time. Her vast experience will be invaluable in helping shape and deliver the next stage in the exciting future of the organisation.”

Bristol Zoo Gardens will remain open until late 2022 and visitors will not see an immediate change on site while plans are developed further. Wild Place Project will remain open throughout this time, until it becomes the new Bristol Zoo from early 2024.

Bristol Zoological Society is a conservation and education charity which relies on public support to carry out all its work.

In March 2020 Bristol Zoological Society launched an appeal to ensure the future of its work ‘saving wildlife together’.

The Society, which is a registered charity, launched the BZS Appeal following the temporary closure of both its sites in Bristol in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. To find out more, or to make a donation, visit