Bristol Zoo Gardens' chief announces his retirement

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Dr Bryan Carroll is to retire as chief executive of Bristol Zoological Society next July

Bryan, 65, has been at Bristol Zoo for 22 years, the last seven as director.

He said: “I feel I’ve made a big contribution to the development of the Zoological Society. I’ve seen our conservation work grow and get the fantastic recognition it deserves. I’ve also been glad to contribute to the zoo community as a whole.

“But I feel the time has come for someone new to take the Society forward. I’m a zoologist and conservationist and feel I’m proud of what the Society has achieved through our excellent zoos and through the Institute of Conservation Science and Learning.”

Bryan was enthralled with Bristol Zoo from his first visit.

He said: “It’s a special place. There’s something about coming through the gates, you see the top terrace and you are in this oasis of tranquillity but it’s also got an incredibly interesting set of animals.”

Bryan became enchanted with animals and wildlife when he was growing up in Sutton Coldfield then just outside Birmingham.

“It has a great place called Sutton Park; it’s got streams and lakes and areas of woodland. That used to be my stamping ground,” he said.

He would find small fish and take them home where he would watch early David Attenborough and Jacques Cousteau TV programmes and read books by Gerald Durrell.

After taking a zoology degree at Liverpool University Bryan got a job at Jersey Zoo.

He planned to remain there for a couple of years and ended staying for 18, during which time he completed his doctorate on the South American Goeldi’s monkey.

Bryan said: “Jersey Zoo was really a ground breaker in terms of defining the conservation role of zoos. As well as defining the link between conservation breeding and conservation in the wild, it gave me the opportunity to go out in the field and to do some field work.”

When he arrived at Bristol 22 years ago as operations manager he was in charge of the animal department, education, maintenance and gardens.

But he was given the freedom to develop education, field programmes and increase the Society’s research potential, all of which he achieved.

However Bryan admits he could not have done it without the support of staff and volunteers at all levels and in all areas of Bristol Zoological Society.

He said: “Their passion and devotion really comes across. People are incredibly proud to work for the society. It’s great to see that.”

In 2003 he became deputy director at the Zoo and seven years later took over from Dr Jo Gipps as director. Since then he has overseen some major changes.

Bryan said: “Not only have we developed all the conservation education and scientific research we have also opened Wild Place Project. That is probably one of the biggest developments ever in the society’s history. What we have achieved there is incredible.”

After all these years Bryan is still excited by coming to work each day.

Bryan said: “You wake up and think ‘I’m going to the zoo’ the fifth oldest in the world and feel privileged. I still get a buzz walking out my office and seeing the animals we’ve got and knowing the conservation work that going on. Animal welfare standards are always growing. Sometimes as a result of changing public perception, but more often to do with what increased understanding of an animal’s needs.” 

Bryan and his wife, Christine, have two grown-up children, Claire and Henry, as well as a two-year-old grand-daughter Clementine.

He will have more time to spend with them after July but he admits he will miss the Zoo and Wild Place Project and everyone who works for them.

Charlotte Moar, Bristol Zoological Society’s chair of trustees paid tribute to Bryan. She said: “Bryan has made a huge contribution to BZS.

“Under his leadership as CEO we have opened Wild Place Project and the Institute of Conservation Science and Learning, expanded our international and national conservation programmes and continued to build our reputation as the foremost visitor attraction in Bristol and beyond.  

“On behalf of Trustees I would like to thank Bryan – he will be much missed.”

Trustees will begin the search for Bryan’s successor in the coming weeks.

Bristol Zoo Gardens is a conservation and education charity and relies on the generous support of the public not only to fund its important work in the zoo, but also its vital conservation and research projects spanning five continents.

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