Perth Zoo, in common with all modern zoos has a strong conservation and educational mission. As part of this, it has been actively seeking to improve its own environmental performance, particularly in the areas of water, energy and waste. It is presently developing a sustainable resource management plan and recognised that it would be financially exposed if it ever had to replace its present heavy use of bore water with scheme water. Aquifer protection and reducing water use are therefore strategic issues.
Established in 1898, Perth Zoo is one of the world's outstanding zoos, successfully combining conservation, recreation, education and research. With 550,000 visitors a year it has the highest visitation rate of any zoo in Australia per capita of population.
In an area of 19.2 hectares it offers diversity for visitors, with 256 species and 1825 specimens, while focusing on Indian Ocean rim species and South American primates. It has a staff of around 140 and is run as a 24 hours a day, 365 days a year operation - staff are always on call and some live on site. It has opened every day since it was founded.
In common with modern zoos worldwide, its core values are in education and conservation rather than being a place of entertainment. Its mission statement is:
To advance the conservation of wildlife and to change community attitudes towards the conservation of life on Earth
Its educational programme includes seeing 60,000 school children a year and giving lessons to 40,000. Its conservation programme includes the captive breeding and reintroduction of native species, especially those of WA. In this it works closely with CALM, the WA Department of Conservation and Land Management.
In keeping with its mission Perth Zoo has, for some years, been undertaking various ad hoc environmental initiatives on its site, for example the 'environmentally - friendly homestead', and recycling of some wastes. 'Zoo Pooh' was sold as fertiliser until disallowed by quarantine regulations.
When Mr. Brian Easton took over as CEO in 1999 it was decided to adopt a more systematic approach to environmental improvements, with a particular focus on water use, energy use and waste management. Significant improvements are being achieved in these areas and the zoo has received various environmental awards, including High Commendation in the Prime Minister's Environment Awards - Living Cities Award for Urban Environmental Leadership 2000.
Perth Zoo won the Keep Australia Beautiful Council Award of 'Perth's Best Recreational Venue' in 1999 and 2000 and is an applicant in the 2001 awards.
Operations and processes
The main animal - related activities on the site are:
- Housing and habitats: Various types of building, enclosures, habitats and facilities are provided for the animals, including structures, plants, ponds, lakes and other systems. Many animals need bedding and those permanently in buildings or, in the case of dangerous animals, kept inside overnight, need heating and/or cooling.
Recycled materials are used where possible for buildings and structures, straw and shredded waste paper are used for bedding. Electricity is used for cooling, and gas and electricity for heating. Gas heating is used where dens are damp, electricity would be risky and underfloor heating would be difficult.
Bore water is used for drinking, cleaning, lakes, ponds and irrigation. Animal faeces, bedding and food waste are composted for use on the gardens
- Feeding: Standards of food preparation are high and the use of leftovers and scraps is not permitted. The Zoo Purchasing officer therefore has to buy a large quantity of fresh produce each day. Preparation of food generates fairly large quantities of waste.
- Veterinary: There is a small veterinary unit on site. Veterinary and other non-recyclable wastes are collected and disposed of by licensed contractors.
Visitor and support-related activities
The main visitor-related and support activities are
- Visitor facilities: These include catering, transport, access facilities, shops, a picnic area, children's amusements, transport buggies, information services, educational facilities and toilets.
- Conference facilities: The Education Centre houses a conference facility.
- Offices and laboratories: The offices and laboratories house zoo staff performing a variety of functions.
- Facilities and service: These include maintenance, capital works, buildings and utilities.
- Gardening: Bore water is used and compost is produced on site from food, garden and animal waste. Chemical fertilisers are not used.
- On-site transportation: Food, waste and other materials are transported on a variety of vehicles, including utes, a number of converted golf carts and a light 'mule 'vehicle. It is policy not to drive vehicles within the zoo during visitor hours except when essential and then on the ring road. Staff are encouraged to use bikes for movement about the site.
Water, energy and waste issues
- Water: Bore water is used for most purposes. There are eight on-site bores, seven of which tap a shallow unconfined aquifer and provide water of acceptable quality (to ANZECC guidelines) for animals and plants. One other bore taps a deep, saline artesian aquifer. Most bore water is used for irrigating lawn and garden areas and for washing down animal compounds. Annual extraction has been steadily reduced from a peak of 433,000 m³ in 1997/98 through conservation measures, and by not draining the main lake every three months. This was a practice aimed at reducing eutrophication. There is presently no extraction charge for the bore water. Scheme water usage is around 8500 kL/year at a cost of approximately $8500 and is used for cooking, toilets, drinking fountains, cleaning and some exhibits.
Should bore water be no longer available due to saline intrusion or pollution, annual costs could be $180,000 assuming use remained constant.
- Energy: The main energy use is from building heating, cooling and lighting, and for equipment, including pumps. Practices vary from building to building with efficiency generally lowered in older buildings and by internal partitioning reducing airflow and light. Consumption in 2000/2001 was 1, 870,690 kWh and expenditure $170,000. For no charge, Alinta Gas provides external, permanently-on gas lighting around the site
- Wastewater:The Zoo discharged over 17000 kL to sewer in 2000/2001. Discharges to sewer are mainly from toilets and general domestic usage. Other sources include some washdown and occasional drain-down of lakes and ponds. Some washdown goes to sumps and soakwells. Sewage charges are $39,000-$43,000 a year.
- Waste: Each year the Zoo generates around 1280m³ of general recyclable and 1916m³ of non-recyclable wastes. General recyclable waste includes paper from offices, plastic containers, aluminium cans, tree and lawn clippings, green waste (straw and used hay), tree trunks, poles and fence posts, concrete and scrap metal. Non-recyclable waste includes general rubbish, green waste that cannot be chipped, veterinary and sanitary waste. In addition, the Zoo generates around 900m³ of animal faeces waste each year, most of which is composted. Some, from quarantined or sick animals, or if potentially pathogenic, cannot be composted. Non-recyclable or compostable wastes are collected and disposed of by licensed contractors.
Composting is carried out in four bays partially separated by concrete walls. Animal waste is mixed with plant and vegetable matter and water is applied with a sprinkler. The animal waste is rotated between the bays using a bobcat according to the degree of decomposition, and the compost is ready for use after approximately three months. The Zoo recognises that the present system is inefficient, leading to accumulation of waste at the facility and in a vacant lot at the rear of the zoo, and problems of bacterial growth and odour. Problems include lack of staff attention and maintenance, contamination with general rubbish, insufficient room to accommodate waste, too little space in the bays for mechanical turning, inadequate reticulation and water content, and a high carbon: nitrogen ratio due to excess hay and straw.
Cleaner production Initiatives
In 1999 it was decided to formalise the process of energy, water and waste reduction. An Environmental Management Group was set up chaired by the CEO and with representatives from the main functions: animal management, horticulture, facilities and services, education, visitor services, and policy and administration. The group meets fortnightly to consider the broad aspects of planning and practical details such as procedures, project proposals and monitoring of excisting projects. The Zoo worked with Murdoch University in reviewing practices and developing an environmental management system.
Reviews and investigations of energy, water use and waste were undertaken during 1999 and 2000. There have been various initiatives so far:
- Energy saving: Examining energy use led to savings from basic good housekeeping measures, and raised awareness, for example turning off lights and equipment. There was some learning too, during this period, on optimal use of equipment. For example turning off air conditioning over the weekend in the summer led to a need to cool a large warm air load on Monday-Tuesday each week due to the inadequate design of some buildings.
The purpose-built Operations Centre, won an environmental award and is contributing to energy saving. Other initiatives have included converting battery powered electric fences to solar, and employing alternative forms of transport including gas and electricity powered vehicles and using bicycles with cargo capacity.
Small petrol vehicle
- Water saving: Particular attention has been given to reducing water usage as part of the Zoo's conservation mission rather than for financial savings, since most water used is from bores. As with energy most savings have resulted from good management, housekeeping and raised awareness.
Initiatives and practices have included:
- - Trialing the use of Barley Straw in the main lake to deal with algal bloom and
- avoid the previous need to drain the 300,000 litre lake every few months.
- - A review of the use of bores and water in order to achieve better bore and
- aquifer management and improve reclamation and reuse.
- - Flow restrictors for the filling of ponds (eg the penguin exhibit), as well as in
- showers and basins in the Operations Building.
- - Dual flush cisterns in all visitor and staff toilet facilities.
- - Hoses in animal keeper sections fitted with nozzles so that they are easily
- turned off when not in use.
- - A new high performing water bore installed in December 1998, taking
- pressure off older, poorer performing bores. All bores run reduced hours
- allowing the aquifer to recover, and through a tank system satisfying demand
- whilst not overworking bores. Staff education was critical to the success of
- this initiative.
- - Scheme water is only used for human consumption and in the public toilets.
- - Less water-dependent native Australian vegetation is used for new landscape
- work and the vast majority of watering is done via timers.
- - Rain meters have been installed on bore and reticulation controllers.
- - Water use auditing is continuous with monthly reporting, especially for
- volume, pH, total dissolved solids (TDS), nitrate and aquifer level drop for
- each bore.
Bore water storage tank
- Waste reduction: While long having a reputation for reusing or recycling waste, significant quantities were still being generated. The review process led to the following initiatives:
- - Investing in a chipper and chipping all green waste for mulch; the Zoo also
- receives chipped and shredded garden waste from private contractors.
- - Shredding office paper for bedding.
- - Composting all animal waste except where prohibited by health regulations.
- - Establishing recycling stations for visitors' waste, reducing the contamination
- of recyclable materials.
- - Avoiding chemicals use (and waste containers) for washing down animal
- areas (high pressure hoses are used instead)
- - Use of sand filters, ozonators and biological filters replacing chlorine and
- other chemicals and waste from various exhibits.
- - Strict control of fertiliser and pesticide use, minimising wastes, containers and
- - Building materials are recycled where possible.
- - Amcor provides a cardboard baler free and pays a nominal amount for the
- cardboard for recycling.
- - Use of electronic communication where possible to reduce paper
- - Changes to waste collection practices and associated energy use.
A recycling station for visitors' rubbish
In addition, the Zoo's Homestead project has been updated to include a range of renewable energy and other environmental features.
A project to develop a sustainable management plan was began in early 2001 and was carried out by a team of environmental engineering undergraduate students from the University of Western Australia. An interim report was presented to Zoo management in June 2001 and the final report due in late 2001.
There have been various benefits so far from the various initiatives
- Energy: Total electricity consumption only fell slightly over the period 1999-2001, but efficiency improved if increased activities and visitor numbers are considered. Savings in on-site transport and fuel have not been measured.
- Water: Bore water usage has been reduced from 433,000m³ a year in 1997/98 to 244,000m³ in 2000/01. The new bore alone resulted in a 25% saving in 1998/99. While this has not resulted in a financial saving, savings in bore water use help to reduce future risk should the shallow aquifer become unusable. They also help to protect the aquifer by contributing to its sustainable use
- Waste: Before the recent initiatives, two truckloads of waste were disposed of a week and this has been reduced by nearly a truckload. Savings in waste collection, transport and disposal are around $3500 per annum, while the initiatives have eliminated the need to spend a budgeted $80,000 on a waste disposal area. Using shredded paper for Orang utan bedding is saving around $1000 per annum. The $38,800 cost of the chipper is offset by reduced waste disposal costs and reduced need to purchase compost.
No significant organisational barriers have been encountered. The main constraints, besides financial, are those imposed by the space and physical infrastructure. Public expectations influence some environmental aspects. For example people like to see a lot of birds on the lake but this adds to the eutrophication and water management problem.
Cleaner production incentives
The initiatives have been driven by Perth Zoo's commitment to conservation and public awareness; also by increased pressures for financial efficiency and by funding constraints on zoos, as in the public sector generally.
Initiatives are continuing as part of the Environmental Management Plan and as a result of the project with UWA which will continue until the end of 2001. The first part of this project study gave particular attention to groundwater and water management issues, and proposed various options for minimising water use and protecting the aquifer. These included considering re-design of the lake and wetland areas to minimise nutrient build up from birds, and the option of a wastewater treatment plant to permit greater recycling. Options for increased waste recycling and improvement of the composting system are also being investigated.
Alternative energy sources, including geothermal, wind power and solar, were investigated but were not considered viable at present. A detailed energy audit will be carried out to identify the scope for savings. These are expected to mainly be in energy management practices due to limitations in the design of many of the older buildings
- Dr Terry Fletcher
- Director of Research
- Perth Zoo
- PO Box 489, South Perth WA 9151
- Ph: 61 8 9474 0394
- Fax: 61 8 9474 5985
- Email: email@example.com
- Date of implementation: 1998-2001.
- Date of further initiatives: Ongoing.
- Case study prepared: June-July 2001 by Centre of Excellence in Cleaner Production, Curtin University of Technology.
- Date last modified: July 2001.