he fifth oldest zoo in the world is extending its opening hours ahead of its imminent closure.
Bristol Zoo Gardens will close to the public for the last time on September 3 at 5.30pm but, due to soaring demand, will open at 9am next Friday and Saturday.
Bristol Zoological Society, the charity which owns and operates the zoo, will create a new attraction at its Wild Place Project site, just off Junction 17 of the M5.
Simon Garrett, head of public engagement, said: “These last few days will mark a moment in the city’s history.
“Bristol Zoo Gardens has been a staple part of Bristol life for 186 years and recognised globally.
“Thousands of families will have memories dating back decades. For many, the zoo has been a significant part of their life.
“This week marks the end of a momentous chapter. In recognition of that, we want to give as many people as possible the chance to say their goodbyes before the gates close.”
Many wish to wave goodbye to the zoo’s famous occupants, including the penguins, seals, lions, tree kangaroo, meerkats, and Livingstone fruit bats, which will start moving to their future homes once the zoo has closed.
Some animals, such as the gorillas and red pandas, will stay at the Clifton-based zoo until their enclosures are built at the new site.
Since opening its gates to the public in 1836, it has been home to tens of thousands of animals and earned international acclaim for its conservation breeding programmes.
More than 90 million people have visited over the 186 years – and introduced to the much-loved animals that have lived at the 12-acre attraction.
Among them was Zebi the Asian elephant, who arrived in 1868 and became renowned for removing and eating straw hats.
Rajah, who replaced Zebi, gave rides to children for years.
Rosie the elephant was also very popular, and many locals have fond memories of riding her during the 1950s.
The zoo’s more recent elephants, Wendy and Christina, were known for being taken for walks to Whiteladies Road during the 1960s. And Roger, a rare black rhino, was the first black rhino born in the UK in 1958.
Arguably Bristol Zoo Gardens’ most famous resident was Alfred the gorilla, who lived there from 1930 to 1948.
At the time, he was the only gorilla in captivity in the country and a very popular Bristol citizen. Now his taxidermic form stands in the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery.