ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo Browse Plantation

ZSL - Whipsnade Zoo - 18th Sep, 2019

The provision of browse plays an essential part in meeting animal welfare requirements in zoos. To assist with meeting the needs of browsing animal species at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, the horticulture department decided in 2011 to establish a browse plantation. The aims of this project included enhancing the capacity for harvesting browse on site, cultivating a wide range of species that can be harvested for browse, establishing on-site browse harvesting facilities that are sustainable and resilient, and increasing the efficiency of browse harvesting on site. The implantation of the scheme entailed the planting of 2,000 whips from 16 different species, most of which was completed in 2012. The planting was undertaken by a group of 15 volunteers who were supervised by Acer Conservation and worked in conjunction with the horticulture team and keeping staff. After marking the rows out with string lines and hosepipes, the whips were slit planted 1m intervals and protected with tubular or spiral tree guards. An additional corner was planted up with c. 250 more whips in spring 2013, using surplus stock from other planting schemes, including common alder (Alnus glutinosa). As of March 2019, the plantation is well established. A first crop was harvested and successfully used as browse by the animal sections in September 2018. As the plantation is put into a regular coppicing/pollarding cycle and matures, future yields are expected to increase considerably. The ultimate objective of this project has been the enhancement of animal welfare. Horticultural knowledge, expertise and resources were used successfully to create the plantation. This, in turn, contributes to meeting the essential needs of browsing animal species because it increases the zoo’s capacity to provide browse. It also works toward safeguarding future supplies. The project was entered by the zoo to the BIAZA Awards Horticulture category 2019 and won a Gold award.

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