Indiana Michigan Power and the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo announced a partnership that uses I&M’s forestry program to benefit zoo animals.
The “Branch to Browse” partnership will help the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo feed a number of its animals, including giraffes, porcupines, monkeys, apes, zebras, wildebeests, birds, kangaroos and even ambassador animals that visit classrooms and camp.
Browse is a branch with leaves on it and is a standard term for zoos. The browse is key to enriching the lives of the animals and reinforcing natural behaviors. Many animals eat the leaves, and browse may also be used as part of furnishing their exhibits.
“Every day the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo feeds browse to the animals that call the Zoo home,” said Rick Schuiteman, Zoo Director. “By feeding on browse, the animals can mimic natural foraging behaviors such as nibbling leaves, stripping bark and chewing on stems. The Branch to Browse partnership is another way I&M continues to be an amazing Zoo partner.”
I&M is committed to responsibly trimming trees to keep power lines clear of vegetation, reinforcing the safety of the public as well as the reliability of energy service. I&M will regularly deliver tree trimmings for the animals to the zoo. I&M’s forestry professionals identify tree species approved by the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo as appropriate and safe for the animals. Some of the more common species are maple, oak, ash, willow, pear, mulberry and sycamore.
I&M bundles and brings the browse to the zoo by the truckload. Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo Animal Care staff inspect the trimmings and then deliver browse to the animals.
“I&M is pleased to support our communities and provide the browse benefit to one of Fort Wayne’s greatest attractions and assets,” said Katie Davis, I&M vice president of External Affairs and Customer Experience. “Rather than turning the tree trimmings into mulch, we deliver them to the zoo for the enrichment and nourishment of the animals.”
While a number of animals benefit from the browse, it is a major part of the diet for giraffes, which can eat on average between 20 to 50 pounds of browse a day.
I&M’s forestry department works all year to mitigate outage concerns, while keeping in mind the health and beauty of the trees in our communities across Indiana and Michigan. Through 2022, I&M plans to inspect and trim nearly 4,000 line miles in its service territory in Indiana and Michigan.
“If you happen to see the giraffe, porcupines, or any of the Zoo animals enjoying a browse during your next visit, it’s likely thanks to I&M’s forestry department and the Branch to Browse partnership,” Schuiteman said. “This is one of the more creative ways amazing partners, like I&M, can support our nonprofit zoo.”
The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo is northeast Indiana’s largest tourist attraction, hosting more than 600,000 guests annually. The Zoo was voted Indiana’s #1 “Gotta- Do Summer Attraction” and is consistently named one of the nation’s Top Ten Zoos for Kids by national media outlets. The Zoo is a conservation leader, contributing annually to local, regional, and international efforts to protect wild animals and habitats. The Zoo cares for more than 1500 animals and participates in 57 cooperative species survival plans.
As a self-supporting facility, the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo receives no tax dollars for operations. The Zoo’s operations are funded entirely by earned revenue and donations.