Powered by ‘zoo poo’, we unveil our innovative ‘Energy for Life’ Tropical House

March 22, 2018

Our new immersive and sustainable ‘Energy for Life’ Tropical House will become the first in the UK to generate energy using waste ‘zoo poo’.

Spanning two levels with fantastic vantage points, guests can experience face-to-face encounters with a diversity of wildlife and exotic plants in a tropical climate, while learning about the flow of energy through life. 

Its lush canopy, cascading waterfall and bustling forest floor are home to a charismatic sloth, Javan chevrotain (mouse deer), pygmy marmosets, tortoises and free-flying birds. There is also a 70,000-litre aquarium with 2,500 fish, a crocodile monitor lizard and examples of nature’s environmental managers: a colony of leaf-cutter ants. 

Supported by a £1.5million Local Growth Fund (LGF) investment by Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), the exhibit is part of a 10-year, £17million investment plan to create improved habitats for animals, more immersive experiences for guests and to help the zoo achieve its goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2020.   

James Cretney, Chief Executive, said: “We are thrilled to open this groundbreaking new exhibit which marks a very proud and important moment in our history.  

“The LEP’s involvement has itself been catalytic and in addition to their grant, has allowed us to understand and support a wider regional strategy of economic growth, STEM skills development and low carbon technology, all of which ‘Energy for Life’ will deliver upon.   

“The unique combination of visitor experience and innovative green-technology creates a compelling story, throwing a spotlight on promoting alternative, renewable forms of energy. We hope guests, both young and old, can learn more, and feel inspired to join us in doing their bit to make a difference too.” 

Leading the way in sustainability, the zoo realised a significant untapped energy resource in some of its 700 tonnes of animal waste (dung, soiled bedding and leftover hay) that could be used for renewable energy within the zoo. 

The groundbreaking project with cutting-edge technology features a woodchip boiler that will be supplemented by a specialist boiler capable of burning straw-based animal manure later this year. 

This will provide heating for buildings across the zoo and enable the charity to reduce its carbon footprint and dependency on fossil fuels. 

The contemporary exhibit’s curved roof is built using the latest ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene) technology. This insulating roof canopy allows natural light to shine through, creating ideal conditions for 650 individual plants from 65 different species to flourish and form a lush habitat for the animals.   

Rainwater from the roof is harvested in two 50,000-litre tanks to provide water inside for the aquaria and plant watering, making the building self-sufficient. 

This unique combination of visitor experience and sustainability creates a compelling interpretation story and educational opportunities for ‘Energy for Life’ Tropical House. 

Through the Tropical House experience, Marwell aims to encourage interest and understanding of the flow of energy through life, raise awareness of how the energy we need to power our modern lifestyles is generated and the consequences for the global environment. The exhibit will highlight our changing climate, the measures Marwell is taking to reduce carbon emissions and how guests can make a difference. 

Marwell Zoo, home to more than 150 species, is owned by Marwell Wildlife, a global conservation charity leading programmes in the UK, Africa and across the world. The charity engages with over 40,000 schoolchildren through curriculum-based education programmes and welcomes more than 500,000 visitors each year to its 140 acre site.

Dr Mike Short CBE, Chairman of Enterprise M3 LEP, added: “We are delighted to see this facility open and working to boost our economy.  With apprentices already employed and learning, delivering full economic benefits will only be a matter of time.  This project helps us on our journey to establish low carbon technologies and make the Enterprise M3 area become more sustainable. This sustainability and with great apprentices the exhibit will ensure healthy animals and strengthen the visitor attraction in our area.”