THE NEW chief executive of Bristol Zoological Society has said that taking on the role means he is ‘coming home’.

Coming into the role, Dr Justin Morris takes on the responsibility for Bristol Zoo Gardens and the Wild Place Project in Easter Compton,

Dr Morris, who was born in Whitchurch and lived in Bristol in his early years, has previously held senior posts at the British Museum and at the Natural History Museum in London. Most recently he has been director at the Somerleyton Estate in East Anglia, which covers more than 5,000 acres.

The 44-year-old archaeologist 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.”

Believing that people have 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 £5million 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 plans have now been given the green light by South Gloucestershire Council.

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.”

Currently the Bristol Zoological Society is working in 15 different countries helping endangered species including lemurs, African penguins, Western Lowland gorillas and giraffe.

Dr Morris officially takes over from Dr Bryan Carroll on August 1, who is retiring after 22 years, and having served as chief executive since 2010.