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Approval for new Central African Forest habitat!

Posted on: 17 January, 2024

We are thrilled to share the news that we’ve secured planning approval to build a Central African Forest habitat at Bristol Zoo Project for the world’s most critically endangered species.

Work will begin in the spring and the new area will become home to our existing troop of Critically Endangered western lowland gorillas. They will be joined by a new group of Endangered cherry-crowned mangabeys and it will be the first time in a UK zoo that these two species have lived alongside each other.

The new habitat will also include Critically Endangered slender-snouted crocodiles, Endangered African grey parrots and several extremely threatened species of West African freshwater fish.

Bristol Zoo Project is owned and run by conservation and education charity Bristol Zoological Society. The development is a major step forward in its plan to create a new, progressive conservation zoo, where at least 80 percent of species will be connected to its conservation work in the UK and around the world.

To mark the milestone, new CGI film clips have been released which give visitors an exciting glimpse of how the new habitat will look when it opens next year.

The gorillas and mangabeys will be living in an area four and a half times the size of the gorilla troop’s current home at the former Bristol Zoo Gardens.

Central African Forest will make the most of the wooded area of the zoo’s 136-acre site in South Gloucestershire. It has been designed to evoke a sense of the dense forest and landscape of Equatorial Guinea, where the Society runs one of its largest conservation projects focused on gorillas and other threatened forest species.

Like the attraction’s award-winning Bear Wood, the new habitat will have integrated learning spaces, enabling students, visitors and schoolchildren to observe, record and appreciate animals in a natural scene, connecting people to threatened wildlife and animals in an immersive landscape.

Brian Zimmerman, Director of Conservation and Science at Bristol Zoological Society, said:

“All of the mammals, birds, reptiles and fish that will live in Central African Forest are classified as threatened in the wild. The creation of this habitat not only presents a unique opportunity for us to bring these wonderful creatures together and expand our conservation work, it also enables us to participate in, and lead, managed breeding programmes, which will help to protect them in the future.”

Justin Morris, Chief Executive at Bristol Zoological Society, said: “We are thrilled to have secured planning permission for this new habitat, which is a major step forward in our vision to create a modern conservation zoo with animals living in spaces more closely reflecting their natural habitats. Creating a new environment such as this helps to raise vital awareness of the risks these species are facing and the efforts we can all take to Save Wildlife Together.

“Work on the new habitat will begin in the spring and is expected to be complete next year. In the future we will also be building new visitor facilities and a conservation campus for students studying to become conservationists. This is a really exciting time not only for the zoo, but also for our visitors, partners and supporters. Conservation zoos have a critical role to play in working with communities and connecting them with wildlife.”

As well as the upcoming works, there are also plans for a Central African Savannah habitat, which will see black rhinos and ostriches join giraffe, zebra and cheetah, as well as improvements to the existing Walled Garden, including the creation of new aviaries.

Bristol Zoo Project will remain open throughout the development work. The attraction is already home to animals from around the world including giraffes, cheetahs, zebras, wolves, bears, lynx, deer, ostrich, gelada baboons and lemurs.

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