Bristol Zoo Gardens’ volunteers’ scheme is about to enter its 30th year.
Since it was launched, more than 2,500 people of all ages have given tens of thousands of hours of their time.
And hundreds more have volunteered at the Zoo’s sister site Wild Place Project which will become home to the new Bristol Zoo in 2024.
Volunteers help with a whole range of activities across both sites from looking after animals, helping with maintenance, supporting the gardens’ team and acting as navigators to help visitors find their way around.
Some are in their teens and others into their 80s, but they are united by a passion for Bristol Zoo Gardens and Wild Place Project. Following the re-opening of both sites as lockdown restrictions eased volunteers have started to return.
Speaking at the start of Volunteers’ Week (June 1-7) Simon Garrett, Head of Public Engagement at Bristol Zoological Society, who helped launch the volunteers’ scheme in 1992, said: “People love the Zoo and Wild Place and they love helping out with what we do.”
To begin with there were just 15 volunteers; today across both sites, there are more than 300. They come from all walks of life and from all over the Bristol area and beyond. Over the years more than 40 volunteers have gone on to take paid jobs with Bristol Zoological Society.
Simon said: “There are many reasons why people volunteer, they all love wildlife but many want to give something back, support our conservation work or meet new people and develop new skills.
“They love being part of a community, one of like-minded people. But it has to be a two-way relationship with volunteers benefiting as well as the Society.”
They also support the Society outside of Bristol Zoo Gardens and Wild Place Project through the Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project’s education work.
This began in 2001, and helps significantly in the Society’s mission to safeguard wildlife and raise awareness and understanding of this unique location.
In November last year Bristol Zoological Society announced plans to close Bristol Zoo Gardens in 2022 and move to Wild Place Project.
Simon said that volunteers will continue to be an integral part of the Society as it transitions from Bristol Zoo Gardens to the New Bristol Zoo. He said: “They are key to Bristol Zoological Society and are embedded in its future. We are looking forward to taking volunteers on the next stage of the Zoo’s story.”
Bristol Zoo Gardens and Wild Place Project are run by Bristol Zoological Society which is a conservation and education charity and relies on the generous support of the public not only to fund its important work at both zoos, but also its vital education and community outreach programme.
In March last year the Society launched the BZS Appeal to ensure the future of its work ‘saving wildlife together’ following the temporary closure of both its sites in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As school groups can now be welcomed back, donations from the appeal fund will support the Bursary Fund to ensure schools and community groups in disadvantaged areas are able to benefit from visiting Bristol Zoo Gardens and Wild Place Project.
Click here to find out more or to make a donation.