Partnership turns tree trimmings into treats for Columbus Zoo animals

Local News

POWELL, Ohio (WCMH)– The branches and leaves from your yard could end up as a snack for a giraffe, in a nest for a lorikeet, or part of an enrichment experience for an otter.

Monday, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium announced a partnership with AEP Ohio’s forestry department for the “Trim to Treat” program.

“It’s just a great experience to see something that we would just basically be chipping and discarding to be used for the enjoyment of the animals,” said Dale Hopkins, the forestry manager for AEP Ohio.

The power company regularly checks power lines for potentially outage-causing branches, cycling through neighborhoods roughly every four years.

“We trim about 8-thousand miles a year, which probably equates to about 450-thousand trees that we’re working on in a given year,” Hopkins explained.

Now a portion of the trimmings will be delivered to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and The Wilds.

“Gosh it’s a win-win situation,” said Jan Ramer, the Interim Senior Vice President of Animal Care and Conservation. “This program allows us to have an unending supply of browse at both places.”

Browse refers to leaves, shoots, and twigs used as food and enrichment for animals at the zoo. Monday, zoo staff and members of the AEP Ohio Forestry team demonstrated the partnership by feeding browse to the giraffes.

“They love the browse,” Ramer said. “Their tongues come way out and they can strip the leaves off or take the whole branch. And it’s just a fun activity for kids and adults.”

Ramer explained the partnership will save money by reducing the need to source browse elsewhere. AEP workers will deliver the trimmings of tree species approved by the zoo as needed, and zoo staff will sort and inspect the delivery before giving it to the animals.

Zoo visitors can participate in the program by taking part in Zoo experiences, like giraffe feedings. The special events typically happen during designated times and require a small fee. You can learn more by clicking here.

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