02 04/02/2011

Scrub clearance aids creatures great and small

Scrub clearance work on protected sand dunes in North Wales is not only helping to preserve the threatened wildlife and plant species that inhabit them - it is also helping to feed hungry animals at Chester Zoo.

The project on the coastline at Talacre, near to the Dee Estuary, is being funded and supported by the Countryside Council for Wales and BHP Billiton, and implemented by Ecological Land Management (E.L.M) Ltd.

Kim Norman, Land Management Advisor for BHP Billiton, said:

“The rich dunes we’re trying to protect support a huge range of vulnerable plant and animal species, most notably one of Wales’ rarest creatures - the Natterjack toad.

“The toads were once common, but now Talacre is one of the very few colonies in Wales and is restricted to a small area of dunes.

“Therefore, the removal of areas of invasive scrub, dense areas of bramble and hawthorn cover is absolutely vital for the conservation of these species and preservation of the dunes habitat”.

The work will also be to the benefit of some much larger animals.

“Not only are we able to help conserve the native dune dwelling species, the scrub that we remove is then donated to Chester Zoo for their big animals to browse on”, said Philip Pearce, E.L.M Director.  

“This is great as it reduces the amount of material that has to be disposed of, turning a waste product in to a resource for the animals”.

Phil Molyneux, of Chester Zoo’s Giraffe Team, added:

“Given that the scrub is coming from a conservation area, coupled with the fact that we’re a major conservation centre, it’s a perfect match.

“We feed it to a whole host of our species including giraffes, elephants, rhinos, camels and porcupines.

“Indeed, as well as some fresh branches, our elephants will also chew on the left over browse that the giraffes have had enough of. Then, when they’re done with it, it’s chipped and recycled into the soil”.

Thanks to the rich wildlife and plant species, Talacre is legally protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Notes to editors:
Chester Zoo is a registered conservation charity that supports projects around the world and closer to home in Cheshire.

Welcoming 1.4 million visitors a year, it is the largest zoo in the UK; home to 7000 animals, 400 different species, many of which are endangered.

Natterjack toads became extinct in Wales during the 1960s but the species was reintroduced to the dunes five years ago.