Before Wild Place Project
From farm buildings to fast-growing tourist attraction.
The 140 acre estate on which the Wild Place Project stands was bought by Bristol Zoo in 1966 from the family of the aviation pioneer George White, who founded the Bristol Aeroplane Company. When George died, he wanted Bristol Zoological Society to build a zoo on the land rather than sell it for development. Animals have been held here ever since, including okapi, a species native to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These endangered ‘forest giraffes’ have been bred here since the 1970s, which has had a huge impact on the captive European population. The site was also used during the foot-and-mouth outbreak in 2001, when animals that were deemed vulnerable to catching the disease at Bristol Zoo were
moved here. It continued to be a holding or safe space up until 2013 when Wild Place Project opened, which now attracts in excess of 200,000 visitors a year. The original plan was to open a complete zoo, but due to funding, the focus changed to starting small and building up. “Bristol Zoo is 183 years old and we’re still changing it because it always will change,” says Will. “The next 10 years is going to be exciting at Wild Place Project, if it’s even half as good as the last six years that we’ve been open.”
Okapi lived on site before Wild Place opened.