Bristol Zoo Gardens has announced plans for a new meerkat exhibit scheduled to open next spring.
The new meerkat enclosure will form part of wider plans to refresh and renew the southern part of the Zoo. The plans include improvements to the children’s play area, a bridge with a hide and viewing platforms over the Zoo’s lake, and the creation of a secret garden with a Japanese fernery.
The Zoo has this week submitted a formal planning application to Bristol City Council for consideration of the £500,000 plans.
If planning permission is granted, work on the revamp of the southern area of the Zoo is set to begin this winter. The Zoo will stay open as usual with minimal disruption to visitors.
The Director of Bristol Zoo, Dr Jo Gipps, said: “These exciting plans will breathe new life into an area of the Zoo where there is great potential, and will come to fruition as the Zoo celebrates its 175th anniversary next year.”
He added: “The plans form part of an exciting series of events scheduled throughout 2011 to celebrate this landmark big birthday and to bring Bristol together, and we are very much looking forward to a year-long celebration of all that is great about the Zoo and Bristol as a whole.”
The new, all-weather meerkat exhibit is set to be the highlight of the improvements. At 152 square meters, it will be over three times bigger than the current enclosure, with space for around 30 meerkats. It will also have undercover viewing areas, a viewing dome and a tunnel for visitors to get up-close to the animals at eye-level.
John Partridge, Senior Curator of Animals, said: “We wanted the new meerkat enclosure to be the best it possibly could be, with plenty of indoor and outdoor space, shelters and high-tech heating systems.
“We have based its design on best practice at other zoos around the world. It will offer plenty of space and enrichment opportunities for the animals, as well as improved and exciting viewing opportunities for the public.”
The enclosure will include warm rocks to provide localised heating for the meerkats, as well as large sandy areas for them to dig and forage, and off-show sections where they can rest and sleep.
The exhibit will feature as many energy saving devices as possible in line with the Zoo’s commitment to sustainability. General heating to the building will be provided by an air source heat pump as well solar panels on the south facing roof to generate electricity.
The Zoo’s meerkat family will move into Twilightworld temporarily, while their new accommodation is being built.
Meerkats are highly social animals, native to Southern Africa. They live in large, tight-knit groups called mobs or gangs, and they take turns to do duties such as baby-sitter for the young, hunt and sentry duty, for the benefit of the group as a whole.
For more information about Bristol Zoo Gardens visit the website at http://www.bristolzoo.org.uk/ or phone 0117 974 7300
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