Chester Zoo animals fed on vegetation from Wirral Waters

17 February 2022
giraffes being fed

Giraffes, elephants and rhinos at Chester Zoo are being fed on rich and nutritious vegetation grown at Wirral Waters.

Every two years, Chester Zoo’s animal and plant logistics team visit the Wirral Waters site at Bidston Dock to harvest browse, saplings, shoots and leaves. The team visited the site twice a week throughout January and cleared four van loads of nourishing vegetation each time and they’re still going! 

Giraffes, elephants, and rhinos are particularly fond of the fresh, tasty willow, ash, birch and beech saplings that grow around the wetlands of the former dock. 

Chris Barnes, lead animal and plant logistics assistant at Chester Zoo, said, “We are always on the lookout for local areas where this rich vegetation grows. It’s an essential part of many zoo animals’ diets. 

“It is also really good for local biodiversity because if left alone the vegetation would grow too big and become unmanageable. By harvesting the young saplings and shoots every couple of years, it keeps the growth under control.” The collected browse is then taken back to the zoo and fed to the animals in the most natural way for them. For the giraffes, this involves feeding them from a high platform to mimic the height of a tree. 

In the summer months, the zoo harvests vegetation from its own plantations rather than risk disturbing nesting birds and local wildlife. But, during the winter months, the zoo team rotates around various local sites, such as golf courses, fishers and private wasteland but it’s always on the lookout for new sites to harvest. 

Richard Mawdsley, Director of Development for Wirral Waters at Peel L&P, said: “It is wonderful that Wirral Waters is playing its part in local biodiversity, putting the vegetation and saplings that are abundant in the Bidston Dock area to good use by feeding the animals at the zoo. This is a former wetland area with lots of growth that needs managing, so it is the perfect solution and we’re delighted to be able to help.”