Role of ecological parks discussed

Zoos bring plants into environmental message

Horticulturists went to the zoo in Devon last month to discuss the role of ecological parks in providing ecosystems for captive animals. Plant tropicalisation was the theme at Paignton Zoo, which hosted the seventh annual Zoo Plant Group conference. Paignton Zoo curator of plants and Zoo Plant Group vice-chairman Ian Turner organised the conference. He said the discussion focused on how zoos can promote a strong environmental and educational message, with plants and habitats having an equal place with endangered animal species that depend on them for survival. Head gardener Danny Bussell of Drusillas Park, in Alfriston, East Sussex, said: “It was an excellent opportunity to meet other horticulturists, who not only face the same problems that we all face as a nation of gardeners — such as the weather — but also problems such as what trees to plant in the capuchin monkey enclosure.” He added that the conference provided the chance to learn how other zoo horticulturists operate: “Information and experience gained through other zoos’ experimentation can be invaluable.” Chester Zoo curator of horticulture Mark Sparrow, who is growing Populus nigra and rare Equisetum at his zoo, said the conference focused on the need to “tell the stories of plants to visitors looking at animals, so that the public makes the link and realises each depends on the other in many ways”.

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