Bear Gemini in tree at Bear Wood

Our challenges

Strategy to 2035 - Bristol Zoological Society.

Strategic plan

Our challenges

Above all else we must, through this Strategic Plan, ensure a financially sustainable future for Bristol Zoological Society. As a result, we must recognise the changing needs and expectations of visitors, staff, colleagues, stakeholders and supporters, whilst delivering a long-term vision for the new Bristol Zoo.

Conservation challenges

The planet has lost 1.3 million km2 of forests alone since 1990; this is more than five times the size of the UK. Other habitat types, including grasslands, wetlands and marine ecosystems are also being impacted by human activity. There are no longer any safe havens for species outside of protected areas. Recent studies have shown that even minimal deforestation substantially increases a species’ extinction risk.

Healthy habitats and healthy animal populations are inextricably linked, and we must continue to integrate wildlife monitoring with habitat restoration in the wild places where we work. The COVID-19 global pandemic is no better illustration of the cause and effect of this. But, out of adversity comes opportunity. Zoos are ideally placed to play a significant part in the struggle to promote a more symbiotic relationship with nature and specifically the fight to prevent species extinctions. But we need to do more, and quickly.

Social challenges

Historically the environment has not featured amongst the top issues that concern the UK public and more often than not, concerns about the environment solely focus on the impact of our changing climate.

However, a younger generation are increasingly passionate about the environment, but, they do not associate zoos with its protection. We must ensure that our public and stakeholders clearly understand our relevance to society today, in particular our mission as a conservation charity, and that our focus on the environment is evident in everything that we do.

We must play a leading role in raising awareness about the importance of biodiversity, foster a sense of responsibility for the species that inhabit the world in which we live, and enable positive behaviours that support the conservation of wildlife.

The benefits for human health and wellbeing of connecting with nature are also becoming better understood and this must come to be an increasingly important part of our thinking, as the way in which we live our daily lives continues to change at a rapid pace.

The population of Bristol has become increasingly diverse and some local communities have changed significantly. There are now at least 45 religions, at least 180 countries of birth and at least 91 main languages spoken. Bristol also has 42 areas in the most deprived 10% in England, including six in the most deprived 1%. This situation is replicated in other major cities within our catchment such as Cardiff and Newport. We must respond to this rapidly changing landscape across our region and be open to different forms of engagement if we are to maintain and increase our reach.

Child playing with tree interactive at Bear Wood
Student holding a hissing cockroach during an education session at Bristol Zoo Gardens

Consumer challenges

Audience expectations are high in an increasingly competitive tourism and leisure market and we must ensure that we live and exhibit our brand and our values.

Families are increasingly keen to experience more time together, away from screens, creating time to connect and escape everyday life. This is particularly the case following the COVID-19 pandemic and a desire for safe outdoor activities. The Society must respond to this through a compelling, fun and universally accessible experience that makes the most of our passionate colleagues and the inherently wild setting of the new Bristol Zoo.

In particular, transportation to our sites must be seen as an enabler, not a blocker, to a decision to visit. The car will continue to provide a popular mode of transport for a family audience; however, we must continue to offer greater travel alternatives which must be affordable and reliable to the point at which they are genuine alternatives to the car.

path leading into a lush light forest with bluebells along the footpath
Children at forest school, Wild Place Project

Financial challenges

The Society has made an operating loss in four of the last six years and has persistently struggled to raise sufficient capital income for investment in its two zoos. This combined with the challenges inherent with the small size of Bristol Zoo Gardens and the financial impact of the Coronavirus pandemic led the Trustees and Shareholders to decide in 2020 to sell the Bristol Zoo Gardens site. This will result in much-needed capital investment to develop the new Bristol Zoo and greater capacity for investment in conservation and education activities for the long-term.

Family from Imayla joining Wild Detectives project at Wild Place Project
Children checking minibeasts at Wild Place Project