Science

European brown bears are back in the UK


Finishing touches are being made to the UK’s largest and most ambitious brown bear exhibit, which will open to visitors next week.

European brown bears are settling into their 7.5-acre enclosure at the Wild Place Project in Bristol, run by the Bristol Zoological Society.

The multi-million pound woodland exhibit will be home to four European brown bears, five wolves, two Eurasian lynx and two wolverines.

It will give visitors the chance to see these animals in their natural habitat, where they would have once lived in the wild, for the first time in hundreds of years.  

The scheme will see Eurasian brown bears – the largest predator native to Britain which can grow up to 8ft (2.4m) tall – rearing their cubs exactly as they did in medieval England.

But the creatures would not be left to roam totally wild – they will be safely fenced in and keepers would supplement their foraged diet to keep them well-fed. 

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Finishing touches are being made to the UK's largest and most ambitious brown bear exhibit, which will open to visitors next week. European brown bears are settling into their enclosure at the Wild Place Project, a wildlife conservation project in Bristol

Finishing touches are being made to the UK’s largest and most ambitious brown bear exhibit, which will open to visitors next week. European brown bears are settling into their enclosure at the Wild Place Project, a wildlife conservation project in Bristol

The scheme will see Eurasian brown bears ¿ the largest predator native to Britain which can grow up to 8ft (2.4m) tall ¿ rearing their cubs exactly as they did in medieval England

The scheme will see Eurasian brown bears – the largest predator native to Britain which can grow up to 8ft (2.4m) tall – rearing their cubs exactly as they did in medieval England

The exhibit, which is nestled among ancient woodland, features a ‘time chamber’ which transports visitors back in time to when the creatures were native. 

It also features an immersive bear viewing den, with 180-degree and floor-to-ceiling glass windows and a raised wooden walkway – offering a unique view of the animals. 

Images show the brown bears, who are believed to have lived in Britain around 1,000 AD, settling into their space, which they will share with the wolverines. 

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Dr Justin Morris, chief executive of Bristol Zoological Society, which operates Wild Place Project, said: ‘We are delighted to be just a week away from the grand opening, after so much hard work and preparation.

‘Not only is this the most significant new addition to Wild Place Project that we have created to date but we are confident that this will be the best and most immersive bear exhibit in the country. 

Bear Wood tells the story of the UK’s ancient woodland and the charismatic species that once inhabited it – now brought back in an immersive experience. 

‘We hope Bear Wood will also inspire visitors about the woodland and wildlife we have left, encouraging them to protect what remains,’ said Dr Morris.

Bear Wood tells the story of the UK's ancient woodland and the charismatic species that once inhabited it ¿ now brought back in an immersive experience with the goal of taking Britain back to its wild roots

Bear Wood tells the story of the UK’s ancient woodland and the charismatic species that once inhabited it – now brought back in an immersive experience with the goal of taking Britain back to its wild roots 

The multi-million pound woodland exhibit will be home to four European brown bears, five wolves, two Eurasian lynx and two wolverines. It will give visitors the chance to see these animals in their natural habitat, where they would have once lived in the wild

The multi-million pound woodland exhibit will be home to four European brown bears, five wolves, two Eurasian lynx and two wolverines. It will give visitors the chance to see these animals in their natural habitat, where they would have once lived in the wild

Images show the brown bears, who are believed to have lived in Britain since around 1,000 AD, settling into their space, which they will share with the wolverines

Images show the brown bears, who are believed to have lived in Britain since around 1,000 AD, settling into their space, which they will share with the wolverines

Bear Wood tells the story of the UK's ancient woodland and the charismatic species that once inhabited it ¿ now brought back in an immersive experience

Bear Wood tells the story of the UK’s ancient woodland and the charismatic species that once inhabited it – now brought back in an immersive experience

Den cameras and monitors will also offer secret insights into the wildlife living in the exhibit.

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Also at the new exhibit will be a giant woodland calendar showing the seasonal habits and variations of different animals, highlighting the changing dynamic of the woodlands throughout the year.

Woodlands, similar to those at Wild Place Project, covered Britain thousands of years ago but have been steadily cut down for building, housing, fuel and growing crops.

Today ancient woods are home to many threatened species and cover only two per cent of the UK.

Den cameras and monitors will also offer secret insights into the wildlife living in the exhibit. Also at the new exhibit will be a giant woodland calendar showing the seasonal habits and variations of different animals

Den cameras and monitors will also offer secret insights into the wildlife living in the exhibit. Also at the new exhibit will be a giant woodland calendar showing the seasonal habits and variations of different animals

Woodlands, similar to those at Wild Place Project, covered Britain thousands of years ago but have been steadily cut down for building, housing, fuel and growing crops. Today ancient woods are home to many threatened species and cover only two per cent of the UK

Woodlands, similar to those at Wild Place Project, covered Britain thousands of years ago but have been steadily cut down for building, housing, fuel and growing crops. Today ancient woods are home to many threatened species and cover only two per cent of the UK

Earlier this year, the government's advisory Committee on Climate Change (CCC) recommended a 'net zero' target to reduce emissions from homes, transport, farming and industry by 2050

Earlier this year, the government’s advisory Committee on Climate Change (CCC) recommended a ‘net zero’ target to reduce emissions from homes, transport, farming and industry by 2050

Woodlands, similar to those at Wild Place Project, covered Britain thousands of years ago but have been steadily cut down for building, housing, fuel and growing crops

Woodlands, similar to those at Wild Place Project, covered Britain thousands of years ago but have been steadily cut down for building, housing, fuel and growing crops 

Earlier this year, the government’s advisory Committee on Climate Change (CCC) recommended a ‘net zero’ target to reduce emissions from homes, transport, farming and industry by 2050. 

One of the ways they have reported the UK can achieve this is by offsetting emissions by planting trees and creating woodland.

‘Ancient woodland is one of the richest habitats for wildlife in the UK, providing a home for hundreds of species of animals and plants,’ said Dr Christoph Schwitzer, chief zoological officer at Bristol Zoological Society.

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‘In order to protect what remains, we need to inspire the next generation about the importance of this unique habitat. 

‘We believe that the best way to do this is to immerse people in these woods and show them the amazing diversity that is at stake.’ 

The scheme, called Bear Wood, would see Eurasian brown bears ¿ which can grow up to 8ft tall ¿ rearing their cubs exactly as they did in medieval England. But the creatures would not be left to roam totally wild

 The scheme, called Bear Wood, would see Eurasian brown bears – which can grow up to 8ft tall – rearing their cubs exactly as they did in medieval England. But the creatures would not be left to roam totally wild

COULD BROWN BEARS BE REINTRODUCED INTO BRITAIN?

In March it was revealed brown bears could be making a comeback to English woods.

A £5 million ($6.6bn) project aims to reintroduce the animals to a seven-acre site on the outskirts of Bristol – complete with a treetop walkway for visitors to look down on them.

The scheme, called Bear Wood, would see Eurasian brown bears – which can grow up to 8ft tall – rearing their cubs exactly as they did in medieval England.

But the creatures would not be left to roam totally wild – they will be safely fenced in and keepers would supplement their foraged diet to keep them well-fed.

The project could begin in the summer if approved.

Bristol Zoological Society has already received donations towards the cost of the project, but it needs to find an extra £2 million ($2.6m).

All of the buildings will be constructed to blend in with their surroundings, Bristol Zoo said.

And if the plan was not already ambitious enough, five European grey wolves, already at nearby conservation park Wild Place Project, will be moved to a new home in Bear Wood.

 



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