WORK on protected sand dunes is helping preserve the threatened wildlife that inhabits them – and feeding hungry zoo animals.

The scrub clearance project on the coast at Talacre in Flintshire is being funded and supported by the Countryside Council for Wales and BHP Billiton and implemented by Ecological Land Management (ELM) Ltd.

Among the species being helped by the work is the natterjack toad, which became extinct in Wales during the 1960s.

The toads were reintroduced to the dunes five years ago.

Kim Norman, land management adviser for BHP Billiton, said: “The rich dunes we’re trying to protect support a huge range of vulnerable plant and animal species, most notably one of Wales’ rarest creatures.

“The toads were once common but now Talacre is one of the very few colonies in Wales and is restricted to a small area of dunes.

“The removal of areas of invasive scrub, dense areas of bramble and hawthorn cover is absolutely vital for the conservation of these species and preservation of the dunes habitat.”

The work will also benefit some much larger animals, with scrub removed during the project donated to Chester Zoo.

ELM director Philip Pearce said: “This is great as it reduces the amount of material that has to be disposed of, turning a waste product into a resource for the animals.”

Phil Molyneux, of Chester Zoo’s giraffe team, said: “We feed it to a whole host of our species including giraffes, elephants, rhinos, camels and porcupines.

“As well as some fresh branches, our elephants will also chew on the leftovers if the giraffes have had enough of.

“Then, when they’re done with it, it’s chipped and recycled into the soil.”