With more than 300 animals making the Zoo their home, animal welfare is at the top of the priority list for Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo. Animal welfare includes a species appropriate habitat, veterinary care, regular enrichment to keep mind and body in peak physical condition, and proper nutrition. In addition to the human-grade food prepared daily as animal meals in the state-of-the-art commissary on grounds, the Zoo is planning to add a “Browse Garden” to supplement regular diets.
Plants play a significant role in maintaining our animals’ wellbeing. When available, animal care specialists provide our residents with “browse”: tender shoots, twigs, and green leaves of trees and shrubs. Browse acts as a nutritional supplement, adds enrichment to the lives of our animals, and helps maintain dental health. These plants stimulate natural behaviors including nesting, foraging, and play and are important for our animals’ quality of life.
Zoo Director Gregg Dancho explained, “One of the Zoo’s missions is to serve as a botanical garden for the community, demonstrating the relationship between plants, animals, and humans. This garden will help us to further that goal, and give us greater flexibility in what we grow and offer to our animals.” He added that the Zoo’s greenhouse manager will be responsible for reviewing and selecting beneficial plant species.
Educational signage for guests will explain the importance of browse, and emphasize the cycle from plant, to animal, to compost, and back to plant, focusing on sustainability and recycling. Signing will also identify browse plants and the species that require them, explain the animal behavioral benefits of browse, describe cold frame gardening techniques, and showcase browse plants.
Supporters of the Zoo’s plans can make donations at https://theimpactvine.org/project/help-us-feed-the-animals-by-creating-a-browse-garden-and-nursery/.