24 / 07 / 2019
Royals officially open UK’s largest brown bear exhibit
Their Royal Highnesses The Earl and Countess of Wessex, accompanied by their children, Lady Louise and James, Viscount Severn visited Wild Place Project yesterday to officially open the country’s largest brown bear exhibit – Bear Wood.

The family toured the new 7.5-acre exhibit which is now home to European brown bears, wolverine, lynx and wolves beneath a winding treetop walkway, which will be opened to the public tomorrow.

Nestled within ancient woodland, where these creatures would have once roamed wild thousands of years ago, the exhibit transports visitors back to 8000 BC through an interactive ‘time chamber’ and tells the story of how the animals became extinct. It also encourages visitors to care for the wildlife and habitats we still have in the UK.

His Royal Highness The Earl of Wessex became Royal Patron of Bristol Zoological Society in 2013. This was the same year the Society opened the Bristol Zoo Gardens sister attraction Wild Place Project, which is located in South Gloucestershire, just off J17 of the M5. 
The family, who last visited us in 2016, found out more about the once-native animals and their woodland home, before meeting local schoolchildren taking part in a forest school session.   

“We were delighted to welcome Their Royal Highnesses to officially open Bear Wood,” explained Dr Justin Morris, Bristol Zoological Society’s chief executive. 

“As Patron, The Earl is a keen supporter of our conservation and education programmes. Welcoming His Royal Highness back to Wild Place Project with his family, to officially open one of the most ambitious projects we have ever delivered in Bristol Zoological Society’s 184-year history, really highlights the importance of our work.”

His Royal Highness met with those who had played a key role in the project, before planting a tree to mark the official opening of the new exhibit. 

It will be one of 200 new trees planted to create a wildlife corridor before winter 2019. Wild Place Project is playing its part in increasing the UK’s tree population, to help meet the Government’s ‘net zero’ emissions target by 2050.  

His Royal Highness said: “Congratulations to everyone involved in Bear Wood. I know trying to create an environment that is a natural habitat has been a long held dream. I hope everyone is very proud of what has been achieved. I trust that many visitors will come to enjoy Bear Wood for years to come.”

The family also met some of the attraction’s other exotic animals, including Kordofan giraffes and cheetahs. 

You can find out more about Bear Wood here.

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.


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