The new chief executive of Bristol Zoological Society, with responsibility for Bristol Zoo Gardens and Wild Place Project, is Dr Justin Morris and for him, the role means he is coming home.
Dr Morris, who was born in Whitchurch and lived in Bristol in his early years, said: "I am thrilled and delighted to be appointed. These jobs are a privilege. I’ve spent a career working in institutions that have been around for a long time and are much-loved as a consequence.”
He has previously held senior posts at the British Museum and at the Natural History Museum in London. Most recently he has been the director at the Somerleyton Estate in East Anglia, which covers more than 5,000 acres.
Dr Morris, who is a 44-year-old archaeologist, said people had a special affection for Bristol Zoo.
He said: “I think it’s one of those iconic landmarks, iconic organisations and iconic visitor attractions. Everyone I have come across who has lived in Bristol or who has touched Bristol in some way has been to the Zoo.”
Dr Morris takes the helm just two months after plans for a £5m scheme at Wild Place Project were revealed to build a Bear Wood exhibit, which will see brown bears, lynx, wolves and wolverine returned to ancient woodland.
The father-of-four who has already spent time at the 181-year-old Zoo and Wild Place Project, working with keepers helping to care for animals, has considerable experience of keeping livestock.
He said: “As a family, we spent nearly a decade running a smallholding in Norfolk whilst at the same time I was working in London. We were raising rare breed sheep, cattle and pigs.
“I know first-hand the highs and lows of that and in particular bringing a new life into the world. I have empathy for those staff at the Zoo who are looking after the animals as well as why they do that and how that feels.”
Dr Morris said he wanted to trumpet the conservation work carried out through Bristol Zoological Society.
Currently, the society is working in 15 different countries helping endangered species including lemurs, African penguins, Western Lowland gorillas and giraffe.
Dr Morris said his wife Louise and children Jessica, 18, Dylan, 15, Oliver, 12, and Thomas, 7, were all excited about him becoming chief executive of the Zoo and Wild Place Project.
He said: “It is for me something of a homecoming. My grandmother who is 95 and lives in Bristol is over the moon, she is so happy about the prospect of her eldest grandson returning to Bristol and leading the Zoo.”
Dr Morris officially takes over from Dr Bryan Carroll on August 1. Dr Carroll, who has been at the Zoo for 22 years and chief executive since 2010, is retiring.