Be­fore Wild Place Project

From farm build­ings to fast-grow­ing tourist attraction.

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Bear Wood -

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.

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