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Brown bears return to ancient woodland near Bristol

A new multi-million-pound woodland exhibit has opened at Wild Place Project near Bristol.

Bear Wood – the largest project of its kind in the UK – is home to brown bears, wolves, lynx and wolverine, who all coexist in ancient woodland together, just as they would have done thousands of years ago.

Entering Bear Wood through a ‘time chamber’, visitors are transported back to 8000 BC to see these magnificent creatures as they would have lived 10,000 years ago. A raised wooden walkway through the trees offers a unique, immersive view of the animals, while the bear viewing den – with 180-degree, floor-to-ceiling glass windows – gives the sensation of standing inside the bear’s woodland home.

Dr Justin Morris, Chief Executive of Bristol Zoological Society, which operates Wild Place Project, said: “Not only is this the most significant new addition to Wild Place Project that we have created to date, but it is also a first for Britain in terms of having bears and wolves living together as they once did.

“Bear Wood tells the story of the UK’s ancient woodland and the charismatic species that once inhabited it, now brought back in one spectacular immersive experience. We hope Bear Wood will also inspire visitors about the woodland and wildlife we have left, encouraging them to protect what remains.”

Woodlands, similar to those at Wild Place Project, covered Britain thousands of years ago but have been steadily cut down for building, housing, fuel, growing crops and making paper. Today ancient woods – described as having existed continuously since 1600 or before – are home to many threatened species and cover only two per cent of the UK.

“British ancient woodland is the richest habitat for wildlife in the UK, providing a home for hundreds of species of animals and plants,” explains Dr Christoph Schwitzer, Chief Zoological Officer, at Bristol Zoological Society. “In order to conserve what remains, we need to futureproof its existence, inspiring the next generation with the importance of this unique habitat.”

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