In praise of Bristol Zoo…and colourful gorillas


A yellow gorilla greeted me as I went through the ticket barrier at Bristol Temple Meads this morning.  While I was searching for a News of the World on Gloucester Road yesterday morning (the first and last such purchase of my life!) I met another one decked out in Bristol Rovers FC kit.  Gorillas are appearing in key positions all over the city.

This invasion of ceramic simians is part of the 175th birthday celebrations of Bristol’s top tourist attraction, the Zoo or more accurately the Bristol, Clifton and West of England Zoological Society.  Gorilla statues have been painted in a variety of colourful designs or corporate wear.  The intention is to encourage people to go and see the real life versions in Clifton.  I did just that myself a month ago when I met Zoo Director Bryan Carroll and his senior team for an update on the zoo’s development plan.

The gorillas are certainly a favourite of mine but I get most enjoyment from watching the penguins swim around. They’re best seen from the vantage point of the glass underwater tunnel.  The meercats were also a big hit with visiting families.

I’ve been visiting Bristol Zoo since I was a child.  It’s an easy day trip from the South Wales Valleys and it was probably a Sunday School outing from Moriah Baptist Church in Abercynon that I made my first visit to Bristol in the mid 1970s.  I remember the excitement of coming over the Severn Bridge as much as the animals!  This proximity of Bristol to Wales was a factor in choosing the city for my university destination a decade later.

The zoo is not just a tourist attraction.  It does work of international significance in the field of species conservation.  Gorillas are a good example, as their natural habitats in central Africa come under threat from development and poachers. The zoo is also successfully breeding rare Asian lions.

So go and visit Bristol Zoo this year.  It’s the city’s top draw for visitors, heading a list that now includes MShed, the fabulous new museum that tells Bristol’s story.  And while you’re at it go and see Bristol and Clifton cathedrals, the Beryl Cook exhibition at the City Museum and Art Gallery, St Mary Redcliffe church, the @Bristol Science Discovery Centre, the multi-award winning SS Great Britain, the Georgian House, the Red Lodge, St Nicholas Market and the churches nearby, see some modern art at Arnolfini (celebrating its 50th birthday this year) and watch a film at Watershed.  Bristol has so much to offer!

you can find the gorilla locations here:  http://www.bristolzoo.org.uk/gorilla-map


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