Chessington Zoo goes ape for luscious leftovers from Garsons
As the UK's largest pick-your-own farm, Garsons of Esher is well used to families enjoying the 30 different crops it grows throughout the summer. But over at Chessington Zoo, a family of a different kind have been tucking into crops from the fields after Garsons donated its leftover corn to the park's gorillas.
Chessington Zoo's troop of nine Western Lowland gorillas have been enjoying the sweetcorn stalks and husks from Garsons after zookeeper Ollie Whiteway got in touch with farmer Steve Gallimore to ask a favour. Enquiring about what happens to the vegetable 'waste' and surplus after the picking season is over, Ollie explained that the gorillas love the corn as part of their diet.
Garsons was only too happy to help, and a team from the zoo was granted special access to the fields out of season to harvest the leftover corn and stalks as a treat for the critically endangered apes. "It's not every day we get a request like this one," says Ben Thompson, director at Garsons. "We were delighted to be able to help Chessington Zoo give the gorillas one of their favourite treats." The harvested crop will be kept in a cold store at the zoo so that the keepers can spoil the animals over the coming weeks.
This is not the first time the family-run farm has been able to help out its animal neighbours, however: in the late 1980s, Garsons exchanged crop waste like broccoli stems for some of the zoo's rather exotic manure to fertilise the fields. "We're always happy to help out with innovative ideas like these," says Ben, "and surely no-one deserves our help more than this incredible and sadly endangered species."
As a token of thanks for the donation, the zoo is arranging for a selection of Garsons staff to visit and enjoy a meet and greet with some of its other residents, a pair of Sumatran tigers whose species is also gravely threatened in the wild. "It will be brilliant for some of our hard-working team members to have the chance to see what it's like behind the scenes at Chessington Zoo," Ben adds. "And of course, they'll be sure to stop by the gorilla enclosure!"