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The inhabitants ask no questions and pass no critiicism!
Bristol Zoo Gardens
Member Name: Nigel1
Bristol Zoo Gardens
Advantages: Ability to view some of the world's most fascinating creatures at first hand.
Disadvantages: Taken away from their natural habitat.
Bristol Zoo is an oddly designed structure in that it is totally enclosed within Clifton Town itself, its high perimeter walls preventing man from entering and indeed, more importantly for the inhabitants of Clifton, prevent beast from escaping.
Situated between Clifton Down and Clifton College, Bristol, this quirky and quaint zoo was first opened to the public in 1836 and has seen many changes over the years during its long and interesting history.
The zoo caught the nation's attention during the 60's when Johnny Morris and his institutional series Animal Magic was broadcast on television. Johnny would act as a zoo keeper and have a voice for all the animals there.
Present day prices for entry are £12.50 per adult and £7.75 for children between the ages of 3 and 14. Children under the age of 3 are admitted for free. There are concessions available for the disabled, and for those who are going in a group of 10 or more, so it is well worth checking out the prices for reductions.
The zoo has its own car park that charges £2, but to save on this expense you can park your car further up from the zoo along one of the side streets, thus avoiding this added expense.
As a young boy I spent many enjoyable trips to Bristol Zoo. My father was a collier from the South Wales Valley and during the 'miner's fortnight' my family and I would happily travel the considerable distance from Wales to Bristol to view the wondrous animals that were on display.
In those long gone days they had polar bears, giraffes and rhino at the sanctuary, but alas, these type of animals are no longer exhibited at Bristol zoo.
I remember seeing those giraffes with their incredibly long necks, and eyelashes that any Hollywood actress would die for, puckering their lips and stretching their elongated necks to reach the lush green leaves that were temptingly dangling from trees that, as a youngster, seemed to reach the bright blue skies towering above Bristol itself.
My fondest memories of those young and innocent days however, were of the two enormous elephants. One was an Asian elephant named Wendy, who was brought to the zoo from a logging camp in Thailand at the tender age of just twelve months. The zoo then brought over a companion for her, an African elephant called Christina.
These elephants are gigantic in their own right, but being a toddler they seemed appreciatively larger, and I was always fascinated and astounded at their sheer gigantic size as they used to lumber and lurch over to the edge of their enclosure and inquisitively offered out their lengthy trunks ready, as I thought, to scoop me up with.
I clutched mum's hand tighter, hoping to negate this threat, feeling confident that if it came down to a tug of war between the elephant and mum, with me as the rope, then good old mum would win the day for sure, wouldn't she?
Over my many visits to the zoo since, Wendy the elephant always held a special place in my heart and would always be my first port of call. Her female companion Christina died after being her constant companion for over twenty years. The zoo tried to get another companion for Wendy but unfortunately they bullied and upset her so it was decided to leave her alone.
Wendy never seemed the same after her companion's death. You could almost feel the sadness emanating from Wendy, and the once mischievous sparkle that was always present in her eyes that had endeared her to many appreciative visitors, was now sadly replaced by a sorrowful stare.
I last saw Wendy at Bristol zoo in 2001. As far as I could discern she appeared lost and frightened. Her trunk, that threatened to drag me away from my mother's grip all those years ago, now flopped listlessly and uninterestingly towards the floor. She could barely walk and seemed to be in some sort of pain.
A year later she sadly died. She had been suffering from a joint pain, but despite all attempts to ease the pain, poor Wendy could not even have some restful sleep due to the incessant pain and it was reluctantly decided to have her put to sleep.
Bristol zoo has changed almost out of recognition since those early childhood memories of elephant, giraffe, rhino and polar bear.
Oddly enough, when you arrive in Clifton, brown elephant signposts point the way proudly to the zoo despite there being no elephants inhabiting Bristol zoo since Wendy the elephant's sad demise.
Going through the zoo's entrance, the owner's have 'thoughtfully' placed the gift shop in the same spot. Effectively, therefore, you can not enter or leave the zoo without passing through the shop. The gifts there are not cheap by any means, and of course, passing through with your children will inevitably allow them to see that pretty pencil with a rubber monkey on the top of it. If they are anything like I was when I was young, constant nagging would soon have dad opening his wallet, ensuring it was somewhat relieved of a few bank notes!
Having navigated the shop, hopefully, with children satisfied and the purse or wallet not suffering too many withdrawal symptoms, then you can proceed into the zoo area itself, passing some beautiful trees and shrubbery along the way.
Food is readily available via The Pelican Restaurant which serves hot meals and sandwiches throughout the day, and The Flaming Cafe, which sells snacks to take away. Both outlets unfortunately, are not as competitive, price wise, as they should be, and my advice to anyone thinking of visiting is to bring your own food, sandwiches and drink along with you.
The zoo itself is rather small in comparison to others, being only twelve acres in size. As you leisurely stroll around the zoo it soon becomes apparent that most of its smallish size is oddly taken up by gardens, lawns, picnic areas and trees and lakes, not really leaving any real sizeable amounts of space available to the animals.
I get the feeling of it being a rather pleasant parkland, rather than a zoo, with large lush green expanses of green lawn lined with trees, such as Sweet Chestnut, Limes, Rowan and Corsican Pines adorning the edges and walkways of the grassy areas.
The animals themselves, for the most part, are housed mainly along the zoo's perimeter walls, with the lawns, lakes and children's play areas adopting a more central location.
There is however, an abundance of attractions available to keep both infants and adults occupied during a visit.
Gorilla Island, which is home to five western lowland gorillas. Salome and Romina are the females and Jock is the male. Jock has fathered two youngsters, Namoki and Komale. These large, black haired apes are generally active during the day, awakening at dawn to forage for juicy leaves and shoots which they select and peel themselves. I have been fortunate enough during one of my visits, to see the male drum-beating his chest and growling wildly, making noises that can be heard from miles away!
Another of the must see attractions is the Asiatic Lions enclosure. This now houses two of these Asiatic lions named Moti and Kamal. It is fascinating to watch during feeding time as these large powerful and fearsome predators stealthily draw ever closer to their meal, grabbing it swiftly in their muscular jaws and then running off with it, often climbing a tree or the large rocky incline that has been strategically placed there, in order to digest their 'prize' at their leisure.
Many other attractions are available at Bristol zoo that includes The Aquarium, Monkey Jungle, Bug House, Twilight World, Zona Brazil, Butterfly Forest, Reptile House, Seal and Penguin Coast and a whole host besides. There will certainly be something of interest here to satisfy any curious and interested lover of animals.
Overall, I think Bristol zoo is well worth an occasional visit. Children will love the Activity Centre and the Seal and Penguin Coast,where it is possible to view their swimming habits and antics via transparent underwater walkways.
After viewing the animals there are plenty of benches and seats strewn around the zoo where you can take that much needed rest, admiring the lush vegetation, plants, trees and shrubs as you do so.
I must lastly acknowledge that despite the obvious advantages a zoo may offer us, I also appreciate that many of the animals have been taken away from their natural habitats and may have no choice of what type of food they can eat and when they can eat it. Combine this with their unchanging environment and they they can soon become bored and stressed.
Summary: Captivating captives!
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