Tuesday, June 4, 2019

‘Best bear exhibit in the country’ opens near Bristol

‘Best bear exhibit in the country’ opens near Bristol

The UK’s largest and most ambitious brown bear exhibit is set to open at a South Gloucestershire attraction this summer.

Called Bear Wood, the new multi-million pound woodland exhibit at Wild Place Project will also be home to wolves, lynx and wolverine. The attraction, set to open in late July, will be the only place in the UK where bears and wolves will coexist in ancient woodland as they would have done thousands of years ago.

Visitors to Bear Wood will enter the woodland exhibit through a ‘time chamber’, which will ‘transport’ them back in time to see these magnificent creatures as they would have lived in times gone by.

A raised wooden walkway will take visitors on a journey through the trees at heights of up to four metres, offering a unique view of the animals in a truly immersive environment. An impressive bear viewing den, with 180-degree, floor-to-ceiling glass windows, will give visitors the sensation of standing inside the bear’s woodland home, inches away from these magnificent animals.

Dr Justin Morris, chief executive of Bristol Zoological Society, which operates Wild Place Project, said: “Bear Wood tells the story of the ancient native species that have been lost to the UK countryside over time, now brought back in one spectacular immersive experience. It aims to inspire visitors about the woodland and wildlife we have left, encouraging them to protect what remains.”

He added: “Not only is this exhibit the most significant element of Wild Place Project that we have created to date, but it is also a first for Britain in terms of having bears and wolves living side by side as they once did. We are confident that this will be the best and most immersive bear exhibit in the country and we are delighted to be preparing to share it with our first visitors this summer.”

A team of rangers will help visitors get the most from their visit to Bear Wood, pointing out the native species at home in the woodland throughout the year. Telescopes, den cameras and monitors will also offer secret insights into the wildlife living in the exhibit.

Children of all ages can enjoy three natural play areas, including a giant bird’s nest and den-building. A multi-use classroom is available for educational visits, events, private hire and corporate events. A giant woodland calendar will show the seasonal habits and variations of different animals, and plants, highlighting the changing dynamic of the woodland throughout the year.

Woodlands, similar to those at Wild Place Project, covered Britain thousands of years ago but have been steadily cut down for building, housing, fuel, growing crops and making paper. Today such woods cover only two per cent of the country.

“British ancient woodland is the richest habitat for wildlife in the UK, providing a home for hundreds of species of animals and plants,” explains Dr Christoph Schwitzer, director of conservation at Bristol Zoological Society. “In order to conserve what remains, we need to futureproof its existence, inspiring the next generation with the importance of this unique habitat.”

Wild Place Project is a fun, family attraction that provides outdoor adventure, play and learning with an emphasis on protecting threatened habitats on our doorsteps and around the globe.

Located just off junction 17 of the M5, Wild Place Project invites visitors to take a glimpse into eco-systems from around the world, including Madagascar, Cameroon, the Congo, and British ancient woodlands. It offers the chance to see animals including giraffe, cheetahs, wolves, zebra, gelada baboons, meerkats, lemurs, okapi, red-river hogs and eland.

Wild Place Project was opened by the Bristol Zoological Society, which also operates Bristol Zoo Gardens, in summer 2013. To find out more about Wild Place Project and Bear Wood visit www.wildplace.org.uk/bearwood.

Peter Dickinson
Independent International Zoo Consultant

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