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New program at Reid Park Zoo uses downed trees, branches for elephants

Elephants eat only the limbs and leaves, so the rest of the tree is used to help elephants exhibit natural behaviors.
Published: Aug. 27, 2021 at 6:56 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - A new program at the Reid Park Zoo asking for donations of trees and limbs downed by monsoon storms to feed their five African elephants.

Matt Vieth, Elephant Care Professional, said the downed trees and limbs are called “browse,” and the elephants eat over 100 pounds of it per day.

“Before this Browse Program was revamped, our landscapers would go out every single day to trim a whole truck full of browse for our elephants,” Vieth said.

The elephants only eat the limbs and leaves, so the rest of the tree is used to help elephants exhibit natural behaviors. For example, staff will hide food underneath logs so elephants can push them around and work to find their food.

“The elephants are going to use their tusks to debark those logs and that’s a great opportunity for us zookeepers to give the elephants enrichment,” Vieth said. “Enrichment is something we give all of our elephants here at the zoo to help promote natural behaviors.”

If you’re interested in donating your downed trees and branches, you can head to the Reid Park Zoo’s website.

“There we have a list of all the browse we feed out, some pictures of the browse, then just a quick questionnaire of the browse and your location so we can plan a pick up or a delivery,” Vieth said.

The staff asks for people to be patient while waiting for a reply, because of the number of donations they have received amid the monsoon.

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