Indianapolis Zoo > blog > Posts > Going Out on a Limb to Feed Animals
Aug 08
Going Out on a Limb to Feed Animals

Elephant browse.jpgLeaves, twigs and branches — for humans, that’s a great mix for garden mulch, but for elephants, it’s a favorite snack!

African elephants are the world’s largest herbivores and feeding their cravings can be a big chore, especially when an elephant, which weighs several tons, will eat about 1.5 percent of its body weight every single day!

At the Indianapolis Zoo, our elephants regularly receive leaves and branches that our Horticulturists have trimmed from trees and shrubs around our 64-acre campus. Feeding out this edible greenery, called browse, is both economically and environmentally friendly — the ultimate in going green.

Browse makes up only a small portion of the elephants’ daily diet, yet elephants aren’t the only animals that receive browse for food. So our Horticulture staff is still challenged to provide enough browse to satisfy our animals’ appetite.

Moving branches.jpgRecently, the Zoo branched out and started a partnership with the Indianapolis Museum of Art to collect browse from the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park. Their 100 wooded acres provides a virtual all-you-can-eat smorgasbord of leafy limbs for Zoo animals. Plus, offering their landscape clippings as browse is an eco-friendly way for the IMA to keep their campus looking beautiful.

Starting small, our Horticulturists recently cut two young mulberry trees from the back of the nature park that our Plains staff fed to the elephants later that day. Browse are a form of nutrition as well as enrichment for the animals, as it encourages them to forage for food just as they would in the wild. Nyah, the youngest of the elephants in our herd, also enjoyed playfully flipping her food around with her trunk.

Nyah browse.jpgAnd snack time didn’t last long on this particular afternoon, as the elephants quickly ate every last tasty splinter.

Waste not, want not!

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