Welfare of animals 'top priority', says closed zoo

A zoo which is closed to the public has said the welfare of its animals is its "top priority", after a video emerged on social media of gorillas in one of its enclosures.

Bristol Zoo Gardens said "trespassers" gained access to the site in Clifton, which closed in September 2022, on 25 June.

Footage was posted on TikTok on Wednesday, with concerns about the gorillas being kept in the enclosure expressed in the video.

Director of conservation and science at Bristol Zoological Society, Brian Zimmerman, said: "Our experienced keepers and dedicated welfare team have continued to care for the gorillas... just as they did when the site was open to the public."

He added the zoo is taking the incident "extremely seriously and it has been reported to the police".

The gorillas are being kept at the Clifton site while construction work is carried out at the larger Bristol Zoo Project, located to the north of the city, where the gorillas will be moved to next year.

Mr Zimmerman said: "The care and welfare of our animals is, and always has been, our top priority.

"The gorillas have access to a large outside area, and multiple indoor spaces, and the temperature of their habitat is carefully managed to reflect the warm temperatures of Equatorial Guinea, where they would live in the wild."

In the social media video, two people are seen walking around the zoo and coming across the troop of gorillas.

They seem surprised to find the animals on site and commented on their welfare and conditions in the enclosure.

In response, a zookeeper tending to the gorillas in a Bristol Zoo Project Facebook livestream said: “We still work here everyday... the animal’s requirements haven’t changed.

"They still eat the same food, they still need the same enrichment and the same training.

"Everything we used to do when we were open, we still do now, even though we’re shut."

The Bristol Zoo site in Clifton, which first opened in 1836, is set to be redeveloped into housing, with 196 new homes.

It is now almost completely empty after the move to the Bristol Zoo Project, however, the zoo had said the gorillas would stay at the site until it finished a new home for them.

The Central African Forest habitat, which will become home to the western lowland gorillas, is currently being built.

They will be joined by other threatened species, including cherry-crowned mangabeys, slender-snouted crocodiles, African grey parrots and West African freshwater fish.

The habitat is expected to open in summer 2025.

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