Trespassers condemned as they break into Bristol Zoo and film gorillas

Trespassers who broke into Bristol Zoo and filmed gorillas in their enclosure have been condemned by zoo staff and bosses. A series of videos, which have circulated widely on social media, shows trespassers inside the former Bristol Zoo Gardens to reportedly feed them fruit and water.

In one video, a man questioned why the gorillas are still at the zoo, which has been closed to the public since September 2022. One man said 'they are so unhappy' as the gorillas looked back at the camera.

The videos have attracted more than 800,000 views online, with dozens of comments alleging the gorillas are in an unfit environment. The incident is understood to have taken place this week, with the matter now being investigated by the police.

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One social media post with the footage shared: “Bristol Zoo has been closed down for god knows how long and there’s still animals in there and by the state of it no one's been there for a while. Why aren’t they at the Bristol Zoo Project like the rest of the animals?”

Bristol Zoo Project has reacted angrily to the viral videos and clarified the gorillas are being looked after by staff until they move into their new Central African Forest habitat at Bristol Zoo Project next year. Brian Zimmerman, director of conservation and science, Bristol Zoological Society, said security is being reviewed to prevent further break-ins.

He said: "Our former Bristol Zoo Gardens site has been targeted by trespassers who managed to gain access to the public area of the gorilla house. We are aware that they filmed a number of short videos, which have been circulating on social media. We take this incident extremely seriously and it has been reported to the police.

"The care and welfare of our animals is, and always has been, our top priority. Our experienced keepers and dedicated welfare team have continued to care for the gorillas since the closure of Bristol Zoo Gardens, just as they did when the site was open to the public.

"It has been well publicised that the troop are still living on the site in Clifton, and work is under way to create a new Central African Forest habitat at Bristol Zoo Project, which they will move across to, next year.

"The gorillas have access to a large outside area, and multiple indoor spaces, and the temperature of their habitat is carefully managed to reflect the warm temperatures of Equatorial Guinea, where they would live in the wild.

"We are investigating this break-in and reviewing CCTV footage to determine exactly what happened. We are reviewing our site security to see where improvements can be made. This is now a police matter, and we will provide any support they need as part of their investigation."

In a further response to the viral videos, the Bristol Zoo Project shared a live stream of their gorilla keepers feeding the gorillas in their outside enclosure. They sought to show that while the zoo is closed to the public, the animals still receive the same amount of food, attention and care as they did when the zoo was open.

Gorilla keeper Becky said: "Unfortunately we did have a break-in recently which some of you may have seen the videos that are going around. This does upset us quite a lot because this is actually a big risk to our animals' safety and wellbeing.

CGI of Central African Forest habitat at Bristol Zoo Project
One man remarked "they are so unhappy" as the gorillas looked back at the camera. Bristol Zoo Project condemned the trespassers and clarified the animals are fed 5 times a day in their large enclosure

"Even though we are shut to the public, there are still quite a lot of people around. We have students, research and various other people who work on site so the gorillas are used to seeing people.

"What they are not used to are people being in their space overnight. Nighttime is their time so having people in their area flashing lights can actually be quite distressing and upsetting for them.

"This is the time, just like us, they would normally be asleep. It is quite upsetting for us that people have decided to disturb them at that time."

Bristol Zoo Project has started work on its new ‘Central African Forest’ habitat at its Bristol Zoo Project site in South Gloucestershire. The site will become a new conservation zoo and will house the zoo’s existing troop of critically endangered western lowland gorillas.

The gorillas and mangabeys will live in an area four and a half times the size of the gorilla troop’s current home at the former Bristol Zoo Gardens. The habitat will open in 2025, with endangered slender-snouted crocodiles, endangered African grey parrots and several extremely threatened species of West African freshwater fish set to be housed.