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Bristol Zoological Society's chief executive, Dr Justin Morris, discusses Bristol City Council’s Declaration of an Ecological Emergency.
Our commitment to wildlife is centuries old and born out of a desire both to better understand life on our planet and to inspire people to engage with the fascination of nature.
And these are not just words.
Every decision we make is done with safeguarding the future of wildlife at its heart.
Many of the animals which live at Bristol Zoo Gardens and Wild Place Project are endangered in the wild. They are part of breeding programmes that are helping to secure the future of threatened species across the world.
The western lowland gorillas at Bristol Gardens are a good example. Two gorillas have been born here in the past four years helping to safeguard their future.
But whilst we are involved in 14 conservation projects in 10 countries, we also focus on our own community.
The trees, bushes and plants that adorn the Zoo and the woods at Wild Place Project are home to tens of thousands of native species and our team of native wildlife and horticultural experts ensure that these habitats are managed for the benefit of wildlife every day.
We work with other like-minded organisations including the Avon Gorge and Downs Project, Avon Wildlife Trust and the Invasive Weeds Forum both of which do vital work in maintaining the city’s wildlife.
For the past 10 years we have supported toad patrols in Bristol – helping these amazing creatures cross busy roads to reach their breeding grounds. To date these night-time patrols have saved tens of thousands of toads.
We also lead a conservation project, working with partners such as the Avon Wildlife Trust, breeding native white clawed crayfish for release into rivers free from invasive American signal crayfish.
At Wild Place Project we nurture woods that have stood for hundreds of years. It is in these woods that we created Bear Wood, where bears, wolverine, lynx and wolves live as their ancestors would have done thousands of years ago.
We are also committed to working with local partners to change public attitudes and behaviours by restoring habitats through wildlife gardening and we have an on-going campaign to encourage people to buy products made with sustainable palm oil.
At the heart of all we do is a single statement: “Saving Wildlife Together”. Three words that stand for our passionate commitment to the world around us; three words which recognise that we are guardians of the natural world.
But no-one, however sincere their motives, can achieve anything in isolation. That is why we work with organisations, both in Bristol and across the globe, to achieve our aims, while aiming to inspire, educate and entertain the conservationists of the future through our two attractions in Bristol.
Of course some people will criticise the Ecological Emergency Declaration and point out acts and decisions that seem to contradict it. But like everything in life there has to be compromise.
Bristol is a thriving, busy, expanding city and it’s important that we work to safeguard wildlife and still meet the needs of its population living 21st century lives.
Our vision is for wildlife to be part of everyone’s lives and for people to want to protect wildlife now and for the future.
I am extremely proud to lead one of Bristol’s longest standing and best-loved organisations and I am extremely proud to support this vital ecological initiative.
I truly believe that working together we can make a difference.
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