Bristol Zoo

From Academic Kids

Located on Clifton Down, near the Clifton Suspension Bridge, in Bristol (southwest England) and opened in 1836, Bristol Zoo is a Victorian walled zoo covering a small area by modern standards, but with a considerable number of species represented. It was made notable by appearing in the UK TV series, Animal Magic, hosted by Johnny Morris. The official name is Bristol Zoo Gardens in recognition of the extensive flower displays.

Missing image
South American Fur seal seen through the observation windows at Seal and Penguin Coasts, Bristol Zoo.


The zoo is very active in breeding programmes for endangered species, wildlife conservation and education. For example, lemurs (native to Madagascar) are endangered because their forest habitat is being destroyed. Bristol Zoo works with other zoos around the world to breed lemurs in captivity.


Most of Bristol Zoo's larger animals have been removed. For example there is no elephant, Giraffe, Tiger, camel, Hippopotamus (although they do have a Pygmy Hippo) or zebra. This is because the zoo authorities felt that large animals were not happy in the very limited space that had been allocated to them in the past. However, the zoo does have Lions, Okapis, Red Pandas, a world class seal and penguin coast, an insect house, a reptile house, an aquarium, bug world, twilight world and an aviary. On the lakes, ducks and pelicans swim while the lake islands are home to western lowland gorillas, monkeys and lemurs.

Stork at Bristol Zoo
Stork at Bristol Zoo


There are over 4,300 species of mammal on earth, ranging from tiny bats to the Blue Whale. Bristol Zoo has 300 mammals in its collection, representing 50 species. The largest mammal at Bristol is the gorilla and the smallest the Naked Mole Rat.

Twilight world

Bristol Zoo was the first zoo in the world to offer the daytime visitor a view of nocturnal mammals. The zoo has exchanged night and day so that the animals are awake during their night enabling them to be observed during the visitor's day. Computer-controlled lighting ensures a natural transition from night to day and vice versa. Animals that can be seen include fruit bats, sloths, Naked Mole Rats, blind fish and sand cats.

Reptile house

This house shows reptiles such as lizards, snakes, iguana, turtles and dwarf crocodiles, and amphibians (frogs). Visitors can see reptile eggs incubating so that a sustainable captive population can be maintained.

The Aquarium

The zoo has over 70 species of fish: from coral reefs, from the Amazon River and from the lakes and rivers of Africa.

Bug world

This is the zoo's collection of invertebrates: animals without a backbone. Ninety- five percent of the earth's species are invertebrates including insects, spiders, worms, snails, crabs, jellyfish and corals. The zoo's collection includes locusts, grasshoppers and leaf-cutting ants.

Gorilla and Lake Islands

The three Western Lowland Gorillas are the biggest animals kept at Bristol. As well as an indoor enclosure, they have an entire island to themselves in the middle of the zoo. Other islands are home to pelicans and monkeys.

Although they are very strong with vicious-looking teeth, gorillas are herbivores and not fierce. Nevertheless their keepers do not enter their island because the zoo policy is to keep the gorillas' environment as natural to their normal African habitat as possible.

Seal and Penguin Coasts

This major attraction at the zoo was opened in 1999 and allows South American fur seals, African Penguins and Gentoo Penguins to be watched both above and below the water. The two pools contain 145,000 gallons (two thirds of a million litres) of salt water, with waves made by a wave machine, waterfalls, rocks and pebble beaches to simulate their natural habitat.

The attraction is netted over the top to allow Inca Terns to be kept in the same enclosure.

The Aviary

Most of the species in the walk-through aviary are from the Philippines where they are threatened with extinction through loss of habitat, hunting and killing for food.

Wendy the Elephant

Wendy the Asian Elephant had to be put to sleep, through arthritis, in 2002 at the age of 42. The zoo authorities say they will never again house large animals, including elephants, at Bristol Zoo. The elephant enclosure has been redeveloped for the okapis and the gorillas.


The main entrance lodge, the south gates on Guthrie Road and the (former) Giraffe House are all grade II listed buildings.

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