The Virginia Zoo’s local conservation actions are making a big impact right in your backyard.
Butterfly Habitat Restoration
Garden accommodations for butterflies help replace native habitats endangered by development, pollution, and pesticides. Migratory species need food and shelter all along their route to ensure their survival, so our garden spaces provide bed and breakfast for butterflies on the go. In exchange, butterflies transform a horticultural still life into a Technicolor motion picture with movement and magic and metamorphosis.
The Virginia Zoo was awarded a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to restore the wetlands area located at the southeast perimeter of the Zoo’s main parking lot, and in October 2008, the area was cleared of concrete, miscellaneous debris and invasive plants. Community volunteers, Zoo staff and staff from Bay Environmental planted marsh grasses, trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants in order to restore and protect the 500 feet of the Lafayette River shoreline. Oyster shells were also placed just off the shoreline to create the base for an oyster reef and to protect the new plantings.
It takes just one oyster one day to purify 50 gallons of polluted water. Unfortunately, the region’s oyster population has drastically diminished due to pollution, disease, and over fishing, but their benefits are needed now more than ever. That’s why the Virginia Zoo is proud to partner with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (BCF), Norfolk Wetlands Board, NOAA, and government departments to help restore native oysters in the Lafayette River. Restoring the oyster beds also helps to create habitat for other small native species such as fish and crabs.
In 2013, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation lowered 25 concrete oyster reef balls into the water along the Zoo’s Lafayette River shoreline, which is nearly half of the property. The reef balls provide an alternative substrate in Virginia streams and rivers. They also provide the benefit of shoreline stabilization.
The oyster restoration initiative is possible due to funding provided by Restore America’s Estuaries and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The reefs were funded by the Rotary Club of Norfolk and constructed by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.