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Paignton Zoo Environmental Park is giving animals an autumnal treat thanks to Riverford Organic Farms. Riverford has donated boxes of sunflower seed heads to the charity zoo.

The flowers were grown on Riverford's farm in France with the intention of producing oil, but founder Guy Watson felt they were of more value to wildlife. "Watching the Vendéen bird population feasting on my 100,000 bowing sunflower heads and realising it was barely worth harvesting our measly two hectares for oil, I had the idea that people might like to use them as bird feeders," said Guy.

Rachel Lovell, from Riverford Organic Farms, said: "We've decided to send them out with our veg boxes so people can give their garden birds a treat. We are also sharing them with a local RSPB reserve and zoological collections like Paignton Zoo and Shaldon Wildlife Trust because exotic birds and small primates love them, too."

Paignton Zoo spokesperson Phil Knowling said: "Keeping staff use sunflower seed heads for enriching the diet of various animals, from macaques and other monkeys to agoutis and porcupines."

Zoos use enrichment to encourage natural feeding and foraging behaviours, stimulate mental and physical activity and provoke curiosity using unusual objects and situations. Enrichment can range from puzzle feeders and wind chimes to unusual scents and cardboard boxes with food hidden inside. Paignton Zoo Environmental Park has won awards for its enrichment work and hosted regional and international conferences on the subject.

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