Beard builds new habitat for Bristol Zoo

Turf cutting for the Central African Forest habitat project at Bristol Zoo

Beard is building a new Central African Forest habitat at Bristol Zoo to bring together critically endangered western lowland gorillas and endangered cherry-crowned mangabeys for the first time in a UK zoo.

Works include the construction of a new gorilla house, along with a crocodile house and parrot aviary. Alongside their living quarters, Beard will be building outdoor spaces for the gorillas, surrounded by a moat. An integrated viewing area and learning space will also be built, enabling visitors and school groups to get up close with the animals.

Beard has worked closely with specialist contractors and the Bristol Zoological Society throughout the design process to ensure the habitat meets the requirements of each threatened species. This includes water treatment, heating, atmospheric conditions and the necessary plants required for the critically endangered slender-snouted crocodiles.

Meanwhile, Beard will complete extensive landscaping to replicate the dense forest and landscape of Equatorial Guinea. Bristol Zoo’s gorillas will have more than four-times the space in their new home that they have now.

Bristol Zoo Project will remain open throughout the scheduled works, with construction due to be completed in spring 2025. The development is the first stage in Bristol Zoological Society’s plan to create a modern conservation zoo, where up to 90% of its species are both threatened and part of targeted conservation programmes.

Bristol Zoological Society chief executive Justin Morris said: “This is an incredibly exciting moment for us and a significant milestone in our vision to create a modern conservation zoo at Bristol Zoo Project. Central African Forest will see us create a new environment that will not only give our animals the opportunity to live in spaces more closely reflecting their natural habitats, it will also help to raise vital awareness of the threats these precious species are facing around the world.

“Currently, 78% of the animals we care for are both threatened, and part of targeted conservation programmes. Our aim is for this to rise to 90% of species by 2035.

“We have ambitious plans for the future, and this is just the beginning. Following the completion of CAF, we will also be creating a new Central African Savannah habitat, new visitor facilities and a Conservation Campus for students studying to become conservationists. This work will be delivered in phases over the next few years.”

Matt Cooper, Beard’s Bristol director, said: “It is a real privilege for Beard to be chosen to design and build this unique habitat which will deliver a conservation first in a UK zoo. It is an opportunity for us to showcase more than 130 years of experience in delivering complex and cutting edge spaces.

“We are working closely with Bristol Zoological Society, specialist contractors and all stakeholders to ensure this exciting vision and conservation project is fully realised. The society shares our ethos of building with ambition and we look forward to working with them and all parties throughout this one-of-a-kind project.”

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