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New 100,000 meerkat manor is planned for Bristol Zoo
Meerkats at Bristol Zoo (Peter Budd)

A new meerkat enclosure, three times the size of the current area, is being planned for Bristol Zoo Gardens.

Bosses say the £100,000 facility forms part of a £500,000 proposal to refresh the southern area of the zoo.

Other areas of improvement in the pipeline include a revamped children's play area and a bridge, with a hide for spotting wildlife, over the lake.

Plans for the enclosure and other alterations have now been submitted to Bristol City Council for consideration.

If planning permission is granted then work could begin in the winter with a potential spring 2011 opening date.

'New life'

Dr Jo Gipps, the director of Bristol Zoo, said: "These exciting plans will breathe new life into an area of the zoo where there is great potential, and will come to fruition as the zoo celebrates its 175th anniversary next year.

"The plans form part of an exciting series of events scheduled throughout 2011 to celebrate this landmark big birthday."

We wanted the new meerkat enclosure to be the best it possibly could be
John Partridge, Bristol Zoo

The 152 sq m meerkat enclosure will have enough room for 30 of the animals and features an undercover viewing area and a tunnel to allow visitors to get close-up views.

There will also be special heating, including warm rocks for the meerkats and the enclosure will use air-source heat pumps and solar power.

John Partridge, senior curator of animals, said: "We wanted the new meerkat enclosure to be the best it possibly could be, with plenty of indoor and outdoor space, shelters and high-tech heating systems.

"We have based its design on best practice at other zoos around the world. It will offer plenty of space and enrichment opportunities for the animals, as well as improved and exciting viewing opportunities for the public."

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