Oct 12

OPPD’s Role in Feeding Our Animals

Have you ever wondered what happens to the trees and branches OPPD has to cut down because they are too close to power lines? Lately, many of them are coming right here to Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium to help feed our animals.

The zoo plants a lot of trees -- in fact, 1,500 in the past two years – to be used for browse, but we also have a lot of animals who eat a lot of browse. Our elephants alone feed for up to 18 hours a day and they can take entire trees down, leaving just sticks. That’s why, about a year ago, we contacted Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) to ask if they would be willing to donate some browse from among the 70,000 trees they trim or remove each year.

OPPD worked with one of their tree-trimming removal and vegetation management vendors, Asplundh, to arrange daily browse drop-offs at the zoo – sometimes three-to-four times a day.

“We started out with just a few loads,” says OPPD Utility Forester Andy Clark, explaining that there are a lot of logistics involved with ensuring that only approved browse goes to the zoo. “If we get a black walnut in with a silver maple, well the silver maple is fine but the black walnut can be toxic to the animals.”  

To avoid any potential mix-ups, the crew uses special software to inventory all the trees that need to be trimmed or removed – some come to the zoo, others get turned into mulch. “We used to send all of the trees and trimmings to be mulched,” says Clark. “But we don’t get any return out of that. What’s more, in the fall when the mulch companies get backed up, they charge us to drop it off with them. This is much better. I need to get rid of the tree, and the giraffe needs to eat it.”


Photos courtesy of OPPD. To watch a video that OPPD made of the mulch program in action, please visit their online newsletter The Wire.