Native wildlife conservation
As well as the large variety of bird life found in and around our zoo, we attract a number of other rare species which the Trust protects or encourages in a number of ways.
Our gardens within the perimeter fence are home to both native and sub-tropical flora but our focus on conservation does not stop at the perimeter fence, and as you would expect it encompasses considerations for conserving native species too. Read on to discover more...
We work with the local biodiversity officer and have placed a number of bat boxes in and around the site to help provide shelter for our native bat species, abundant on the Ness headland.
Bees and butterflies
A butterfly garden has been planted with varieties of native cottage-garden and more exotic species to provide flowers and nectar throughout the year. Our diary of observed species in the summer of 2009 included many of the more common species such as peacock, red admiral, small tortoise shell, painted lady, holly blue, common blue, small copper, meadow brown, wall brown, gatekeeper and more unusual species such as elephant and hummingbird hawkmoths and our Devon speciality, the Jersey Tiger moth.
We have recently converted a small area from rough grassland into a meadow area with native perennials such as ox-eye daisy, meadow cranesbill, valerian, teasel and other native plants to further encourage native fauna.
Birds and mammals
The zoo provides a safe haven for many species of birds and small mammals including squirrels, hedgehogs, wagtails and blue tits. We also have a large population of Tawny owls which can be seen and heard very clearly on summer evenings. There is a constant supply of food and we provide nest boxes and suitable environments to spend the cold winters. Our education room also has a display encouraging visitors to provide wildlife-friendly areas in their own gardens.
We have areas set aside for local frogs and toads and the woodlands here are a well-known area for native amphibian species. Every year the road next to the zoo is closed to allow safe passage for breeding toads.
Plants and trees
Many native woodland plants such as bluebell, wild garlic, foxglove and red campion occur within the woodland and are used as part of our planting scheme to further encourage wildlife. The nationally rare Ivy Broomrape, a parasitic plant on the roots of ivy, occurs and is protected on our site.
We have planted an exterior hedge of native species including holly, hazel, field maple and wild cherry. All the species we have planted have attributes of significant benefit to our native wildlife be it nectar-rich flowers, edible foliage or their fruits and nuts.
The Trust's gardens are set amongst the mature woodland of the Ness headland, providing a tranquil natural background for our animals.
Within this wooded framework much work has been carried out in recent years to give a lush sub-tropical look to the gardens. The very mild climate locally means that, in addition to "architectural" plants such as palms, fatsias and bamboos, we can also grow far more tender species. Cannas, gingers and bananas thrive alongside giant echiums from the Canary Islands, arum lilies from South Africa and pseudopanax from New Zealand, with its amazingly shaped leaves. Australian tree ferns grown alongside local Devon ferns, and before the sub-tropical look of Summer takes over, a Spring woodland garden flourishes. This includes various hellebores and cyclamen species from the Alps and southern Europe, native wild garlic, and stunning oriental lilies with their superb fragrance.
Outside the entrance to the Trust and bordering the adjacent lane is the "Butterfly Garden". This is a fusion of traditional cottage-garden flowers, including wild flowers, mixed with architectural plants and tender shrubs and perennials, providing colour and wildlife-friendly flowers over a long season. The cottage-garden plants include aquilegias, forget-me-knots and sweet Williams in the spring, through to Summer lilies, buddleia and lupins, and on to Autumn asters, anemones and sedum. The tender plants begin flowering early in the year with the stunning scarlet clianthus (lobster claw) from New Zealand, followed by the beautiful blue spires of echium. These are followed in turn by white arum lilies and romneya (Californian Tree Poppy), the deep blue trumpets of ipomoea (the perennial Morning Glory), scarlet eythrina and several types of blue salvias, amongst many others. So no matter what time of year, garden-lovers will always find something of interest in our grounds.
The work we have already carried out in our extension has resulted in a richer ground flora and we intend to encourage wild flowers such as bluebells, foxgloves and wild garlic within this area. We have already planted an exterior hedge of native species including holly, hazel, field maple and wild cherry to provide shelter, flowers and fruits for the local wildlife.