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​Zoo horticulture is a unique blend of specialties that work with plants but often include skills in arboriculture.  A “zoo arborist” shares many skills and tree care goals with municipal arborist but perform under a unique set of circumstances not often encountered in a municipal setting. 

​Maintaining a healthy urban forest in a zoo is an essential part of caring for wildlife, educating guests, and offering a beautiful garden to visit.

AZH is a non-profit membership organization

dedicated to the advancement of horticulture in zoos, zoological parks, botanic gardens, and aquariums.

One of the key elements of developing natural habitat exhibits is a holistic approach to the design of exhibits. The zoo horticulturist should be involved in every phase of exhibit design. From the beginning stages of guiding plant selection and assuring that plant needs are met, through to the project’s conclusion and maintenance, the zoo horticulturist is an important part of the design team.

AZH is dedicated to the advancement of horticulture in zoos, zoological parks, botanic gardens, and aquariums. We're an organization of professional horticulturists working in the specialized field of zoo horticulture. 

AZH works to highlight the importance of plants within zoos and aquariums, and seeks to support the horticulturists and gardeners who work in a zoological setting. We are a support network for zoo and aquarium personnel without training or background in plant science, but find themselves performing the work.

 

AZH works to support all wildlife conservation efforts, research and activities fighting extinction of species around the globe.  We strive to connect our members and visitors to current efforts and knowledge of plant and animal interactions and survival reliance.

Zoo horticulture encompasses a wide range of activities which requires a diversity of knowledge and skills in gardening, plant identification/selection, landscape development/management, plant/animal interactions, plant toxicity, animal browse production, etc. Just imagine a zoo without plants and you will agree, plants make the difference!

Managing the tree canopy in a zoo environment requires organization and consistent monitoring. Safety of the animal collection and the zoo guests is always a priority. Frequent inspections and documentation serve to ensure specimens are healthy and concerns are addressed promptly.  Access to many specimens can be difficult because of adjacent structures such as restrooms, playgrounds, food areas, or animal exhibits…or animals decide they do not want to shift inside holding areas!  Coconut removal over the alligator exhibit is always an adventure!  Tree work such as pruning or root therapy requires specific planning and good communication amongst all departments.   Most tree care activities impact the guest experience and sometimes require moving of animals to facilitate work.

Protecting trees from animals browsing, climbing, or scratching within an exhibit is a challenge for the zoo arborist different from that of a municipal or residential arborist.  Many creative solutions exist such as using boulders or other objects to distance animals for the trees, flashing materials installed along the trunk, or managing the tree size inside the exhibit to contain animals if they do interact with the trees.

Signage and interpretation of the tree work being performed can serve to educate zoo guests and even staff on proper pruning, plant health care techniques, and pest and disease control. Signage also educates zoo guests about how some trees species provide browse for the animals.  In many cases, pruning debris is offered to animals like giraffe as part of their daily enrichment or a limb removal becomes a perch for a bird in the collection.  Each species offered to animals must be approved by the veterinarian staff.