ANIMALS at Chester Zoo are enjoying extra fresh and tasty meal times thanks to Burton Mere Wetlands nature reserve.

The RSPB site has teamed up with the zoo to supply vegetation to feed animals including giraffes, rhinos and elephants.

As part of Burton Mere’s land management programme, the team regularly cuts back plants and hedges on rotation.

During the winter months willow is cut back, but the zoo has also been supplied with hawthorn, elm and beech, which have been cut while trimming hedges throughout the year.

Rhian Pierce, farmland warden at RSPB Burton Mere, said: “I first contacted Chester Zoo after hearing of similar arrangements working in other parts of the country. They were more than happy to take the waste vegetation off our hands and basically collect as much as we can cut.

“The arrangement works perfectly for us as otherwise we would have to dispose of the vegetation by burning it – which is extremely time-consuming.

“We make sure we don’t give them anything like laurel, elder or rhododendron though, as these would be poisonous to the animals.”

Anthony Hutchinson, who runs Chester Zoo’s animal supplies team, said: “Our animals can get through around three tonnes of food per day, which means we have a rather large food bill to ensure they receive a well-balanced diet. Giraffes alone can spend between 16 and 20 hours a day feeding, so we’re grateful for any help offered to us with food supplies.”