A zoo that’s dedicated to conserving endangered animals is also helping to save the planet by feeding them with surplus fruit and veg from supermarkets.
The Welsh Mountain Zoo in Colwyn Bay takes delivery of around 1.5 tonnes a week of food from local stores that would otherwise be sent to the rubbish dump.
The types of fruit and veg they receive can vary depending on the time of year.
During the run-up to Christmas, the consignments feature a lot of Brussel sprouts and carrots which are particular favourites of the zoo’s fallow deer.
It’s mainly items that are past their sell by date but are still perfectly fit for consumption.
They also supplement the animals’ diets with plantations of willow and bamboo dotted around the 37-acre hillside site overlooking the seaside resort and the Carneddau Mountains.
The zoo’s green credentials have also been boosted by an array of 39 solar panels of the roof of the gift shop
As well as providing energy, it’s also enabled them to sell electricity to the National Grid, generating more than £4,000 in income which has been used for the benefit of the 80 species of animals there.
Meanwhile, the onsite restaurant uses local food suppliers and recyclable materials wherever possible.
Their success in being environmentally-friendly prompted a visit by members of the Net Zero North Wales Network who came on a fact-finding mission to see the green revolution in action.
The aim of the network is to share information to help other businesses and organisations in the region as part of the campaign to help North Wales reach net zero status.
Jen Jesse, the Director of Operations and Administration at the zoo, said: “Sustainability and caring for the environment is at the heart of everything we do, from educating children and the groups that come here, to cutting down on food miles wherever possible.
“We push out the message about microplastics and pollution in the seas when we do our sea life displays as well as all the practical things we do.
“The fruit and veg we get from the supermarkets is a benefit to us and it diverts a lot of food away from landfill at the same time.”
It was a message echoed by the zoo’s Education Manager, Alex Davies, who explained: “The food we receive is usually past its sell by date but they’re perfectly fine to eat.
“It can also include things like tomatoes that somebody’s picked up and put them back with the cucumbers which means they can’t go back out for sale to the general public but there’s nothing wrong with them.
“Around Halloween we had a lot of pumpkins being delivered and at the moment we’re getting loads of Brussel sprouts.
“Certain animals can’t eat certain things. Fruit is very high in sugar so most animals can’t have it because we’ve got to look after their teeth and manage their body condition. We have very specific diet sheets for all of our different animals, and we feed them accordingly.
“The chimpanzees’ favourite food is onions and berries are a big one for our bears while the deer love carrots.”
It was all grist to the mill for North Wales Net Zero Ambassador and renewable energy expert Gareth Jones, Managing Director of the Carbon Zero Group.
He said: “It’s great to see some behind the scenes things that they’re doing for sustainability whilst conserving endangered species and doing it in a sustainable way.
“I think also what’s really good is their engagement with local schools and colleges, teaching the next generation about the importance of sustainability and conservation.
“But nobody has all the answers and the purpose of visits like this is to share best practice so we all benefit in the end.”
Fellow ambassador Mared Williams, the Low Carbon Project Officer from the Rhug Estate, near Corwen, was equally impressed by what she saw and heard.
She said: “I think it’s brilliant. I love how enthusiastic everyone is and it’s so good to hear about all the things that they’re doing to help their own sustainability journey, from where and how they source their products for the cafes and then the solar panels, their plantations and using food waste to feed the animals as well. It’s absolutely fantastic.
“Every single kilo of food they divert from landfill is a benefit to the environment.”
The visit was organised by Ashley Rogers, the Chief Executive of the North Wales Business Council, which runs the Net Zero Network.
He said: “What I particularly like about the Welsh Mountain Zoo is that the work they’re doing is so multi-faceted.
“It’s celebrating its 60th anniversary this year and has attracted more than eight million people in that time but it is much more than a tourist attraction, although it is a wonderful one and recently recognised with the Go North Wales Service to Tourism Award.
“The zoo is also an education and conservation centre and they are reducing the environmental impact across their own operations at the same time. That’s an inspiration to all of us as we work towards a net zero future.”
The Net Zero North Wales Network has received £126,000 from the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund and is supported by Gwynedd Council and Conwy County Borough Council.”