Clean air for animals too

We are using our blog to share stories and news from our ClairCity Associates. To start us off, here is the perspective of Bristol Zoo Gardens from Elinor Kershaw, their Sustainability Coordinator.

At Bristol Zoo Gardens, a conservation and education charity as well as an outdoor visitor attraction, the news that Bristol’s air quality was so poor was a real concern to us. We have responsibility for the welfare of hundreds of animals, many of whom live outside, as well as thousands of visitors each year. If air quality continues to deteriorate in the developed world, it is possible to envisage a time when spending your free time at an outdoor space would be neither pleasant nor safe. Joining ClairCity seemed like a good opportunity to be part of the discussion and advocating for the needs of clean, safe recreation spaces and animal welfare.

We work closely with both universities in the city on a huge range of projects. This year, as well as getting involved with ClairCity via UWE Bristol, we worked with the University of Bristol on student environmental monitoring projects looking at how the air quality at our site compared to the wider city. Bristol Zoo Gardens is more than 180 years old and is a walled site which has been managed as a green space with trees and all manner of plants for all of that time. We hoped that our walls and vegetation would be contributing positively to the air quality in our site, however as an ‘island’ with less air movement it could also have been trapping pollution which settled into the site.

The students compared pollution levels inside our site with the road outside, as well as with a local rural location and a busy city-centre street. We were pleased to find that the pollution levels inside were consistently lower than outside, especially seeing as at times the local street had higher levels of air pollution than the city centre.

We also recognise that we are contributing in part to that local pollution as many of our guests arrive by car. We already offer discounted entry to guests using sustainable transport options (public transport, cycling, park & ride) and a frequent bus comes to the site from the mainline rail station via the city centre. We hope that ongoing improvements to local bus infrastructure will make it easier for guests to make their whole journey by public transport, meeting that reliable service at a local interchange stop with their bus to and from home.

Improving air quality is vital for general health and to enable outdoor activities for mental and physical wellbeing. For our native species, and for globally endangered species we need to take responsibility for the pollution we release into the air – it’s their air too!