The UK’s largest and most ambitious brown bear exhibit is set to open here at Wild Place Project later this month.
Called Bear Wood, the new multi-million pound woodland exhibit will also be home to wolves, lynx and wolverine. The attraction, due to open on 25 July, will be the only place in the UK where bears and wolves will coexist in ancient woodland together, 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 several 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 bears' woodland home, inches away from these magnificent animals.
Dr Justin Morris, Chief Executive of Bristol Zoological Society, which operates Wild Place Project, said: “Not only is this the most significant new addition to 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 together 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 counting down to the opening day later this month, after so much hard work and preparation.”
He added: “Bear Wood tells the story of the UK’s ancient woodland and the charismatic species that once inhabited it, now brought back in one spectacular immersive experience. We hope Bear Wood will also inspire visitors about the woodland and wildlife we have left, encouraging them to protect what remains.”
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. Den cameras and monitors will also offer secret insights into the wildlife living in the exhibit.
Children of all ages will be able to enjoy two natural play areas, including a giant bird’s nest. 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 ancient woods – described as having existed continuously since 1600 or before – are home to many threatened species and cover only two per cent of the UK.
Earlier this year, the government's advisory Committee on Climate Change (CCC) recommended a "net zero" target to reduce emissions from homes, transport, farming and industry by 2050. One of the ways they have reported the UK can achieve this is by offsetting emissions by planting trees and creating woodland.
“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, Chief Zoological Officer, 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.”
, the Bristol-based, plastic-free and organic period product company, is headline sponsor of Bear Wood.
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
Part funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas. The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) is contributing towards the costs of fencing for the bear, wolf, wolverine and lynx enclosures.