Video: It’s a tree-for-all at the zoo

Format VideoPosted on Categories UncategorizedTags , , ,

It’s a peculiar sight, watching an 18-inch, purple, prehensile tongue dart from the mouth of a giraffe and deftly snatch leaves and bark from the branch of maple tree.

But for Sam, one of the giraffes at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, it’s a free lunch, courtesy of OPPD’s Forestry team.

food source

OPPD’s contract partners with Asplundh to haul tree trimmings to the zoo. This often involves moving three loads a day in a huge truck called a clam. At 70 cubic yards per load, the browse, as it’s known, is a smorgasbord of saplings and a buffet of branches for zoo animals, including giraffes, elephants and apes.

This “win-win” relationship started in 2016 when Danny Morris, the zoo’s chief operating officer at the time, reached out to OPPD account executive Christene Bywater. Bywater joined Chris Vrtiska, a supervisor with Transmission & Distribution, for a visit to the zoo and, from there, the idea rapidly took shape.

Now, the zoo provides a veterinarian-approved browse list. Utility Forester Andy Clark guides the separation of tree species, carefully excluding ones that could be unhealthy for the animals.

“We give them anything from one-inch branches all the way up to tree trunks,” said Clark. “It’s a big efficiency win for us, since our crews can quickly turn around and get back to work.”

Roni McClellen, the zoo’s browse coordinator, said that for a northern zoo, the browse makes a great year-round supplement to the animals’ diets.

And it’s great for OPPD, as well.

place for trimmings

Each year, trimmings from more than 70,000 trees need to find their way to drop-off sites. This often means long trips to area landscapers.

At left, Lon Nutter, of Asplundh, and OPPD’s Andy Clark

“This really opened our eyes to new locations,” said Lon Nutter, a supervisor with Asplundh. “We sometimes have to drive an hour to unload. With easy interstate and highway access, the zoo is a full-time destination that works really well for us.”

Elephants strip down the trunks, while giraffes devour the leaves and bark from branches. McClellen explained that it’s called browse because these herbivores would browse and eat the material directly from trees in the wild, similar to the way a grazing animal grazes for grass.

She said in the past, the zoo gave the animals clippings from trees located at the zoo. The addition of browse from OPPD gives them much more to feed the animals.

“It’s a very welcome bonus.”

Cris Averett

About Cris Averett

Cris Averett is responsible for communications at OPPD’s Fort Calhoun Station, as well as an array of communications projects across the district. Whenever feasible, Cris enjoys spending time with his wife and offspring, listening to music, tinkering with toys and playing a splendid game of cribbage.

Joe Comstock

About Joe Comstock

Joe Comstock is the creative coordinator for OPPD’s Corporate Marketing & Communications group. Skilled in all things creative, he can make the mundane - magical, the trite - tantalizing and the difficult – digestible.

4 thoughts on “Video: It’s a tree-for-all at the zoo”

  1. So happy to hear that OPPD is partnering with our awesome Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium by providing important nutrients in “waste” trimmings to zoo animals. Awesome combination!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *