Securing a shared future for wildlife and people

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Woollahra Council has been providing some tasty delicacies for Taronga Zoo’s remarkable Chimpanzees, Orangu-tans, Langurs and Gorilla groups.

Recently, the Zoo’s 19 chimps and two Orang-utans, ‘Willow’ and ‘Jantan’, moved house to different locations in the Zoo. To help these highly intelligent animals settle in to their new abodes, the Zoo’s horticulturalists were asked to find additional tasty treats, almost doubling the amount of leafy branches that are given to the primates each week.

Taronga Zoo’s Senior Horticulturist, Warren Townsden, said: “We have a number of areas where we have been allowed to harvest from, but because we wanted to supply extra browse to the primates we put a call out to Local Government Authorities and Non-Government Organisations to give us a helping hand.”

 “With the primates munching through 14 bin-loads full of mixed tree browse weekly, we are delighted that Woollahra Council, with the help of local residents, has come on board to assist us in supplying plant material for our animals,” said Warren.

Not only do the Zoo’s primates reap the benefits but the collection of the browse helps recycle unwanted foliage. 

“Our chimps enjoy a wide variety of food including some common weed species such as banana palms and Wild Olive, whilst the Red Pandas love to chomp down on a local pest, Golden Bamboo.  Rather than these plants being wood chipped, our animals are loving the additional food,” said Warren.

Despite this, the primates, just like us, their closest relatives, are picky eaters. Therefore Taronga cannot take any old garden scraps. A database of local and regional private residences, schools and other community groups which have suitable vegetation has been developed. The browse team from the Zoo’s Horticulture Department regularly drive around Sydney to collect leafy branches for Taronga’s remarkable wildlife. 

“Often a Zoo truck can be seen in neighbourhoods piled high with bamboo, hibiscus, mulberry, fig and banana trees which are culinary delights for our animals,” said Warren.

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With the efforts of local councils like Woollahra, this database is now expanding.

Taronga Zoo’s Botanic Estate look after Taronga’s 28 hectares of gardens through which more than 1.2 million Zoo visitors stroll each year. Some of their duties include regenerating the Sydney Harbour foreshore surrounding the Zoo perimeter with native shrubs, trees and grasses, maintaining animal exhibits such as the lush rainforest home of the Asian Elephants and Silvery Gibbons and mowing 7000 square metres of lawns.

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