Zoo animals will benefit unexpectedly from an act of vandalism after a mature tree illegally felled at a cemetery has been donated for food supplies.
Marwell Zoo has thanked Hollybrook Cemetery for the unexpected gift, which will feed its hoofstock animals at a time the conservation charity is appealing for help to cover its basic costs due to the coronavirus shutdown.
Zookeeper Zoe Newnham spotted a social media post about the crime and contacted the cemetery offering to put the magnificent Hornbeam tree to good use.
I saw the Facebook post the cemetery put out appealing for witnesses to the mindless act and highlighting the impact the loss of the tree would have on wildlife and that it was likely that birds were nesting or using it as a food source. I immediately thought how the tree could really help out our animals during these difficult times when the zoo is receiving no income from guests and that there could be a positive ending to a sad situation. I contacted them and they were very happy for us to use as much of the tree as we could.
The zoo team filled a bumper haul of 21 barrels of stripped twigs and foliage known as ‘browse’ which the zoo’s ruminant species including giraffe, okapi, bongo, nyala, anoa, lesser kudu, dik dik, pygmy hippo, tapir and sitatunga naturally eat in the wild.
Browse has a number of benefits for our animals. We have our own browse plantations at Marwell which we use to feed the animals throughout the year but the more we can provide, the better and browse is very hard to come by. We’d like to say a huge thank you. This tree will allow us to provide animals a natural diet throughout the winter when there are few fresh leaves around.
Southampton City Council Councillor Steve Leggett, Cabinet Member for Green City and Place, added:
The illegal felling of the magnificent tree at our Hollybrook Cemetery has shocked not just us at the council but also the local community. We were delighted that Marwell Zoo contacted us after seeing our social media posts offering to put the tree to good use, this has given a positive end to this what has been a sad event. We hope the okapis and giraffes enjoy the special treat.
Each day the zoo is closed to guests, the need for public support grows.
To find out more about the zoo’s fundraising appeal to help cover basic animal care costs such as feed and bedding, go to: www.justgiving.com/campaign/supportMarwell
Alternatively if you would like to buy a gift for the animals from the zoo’s Amazon Wish List, which Zoe instigated three years ago, visit https://www.marwell.org.uk/zoo/support/amazon-wish-list
Photo: Tree felled at cemetery