Weeds become snacks for animals at Melbourne Zoo

Animals including Elephants, Giraffes and Tree Kangaroos have been given a very Melbourne snack in the form of foliage, tree limbs and branches removed as part of local weed removal works by Melbourne Water.
Green matter from 1.5km of the west bank of Merri Creek at Coburg was donated to Melbourne Zoo after it was identified that the material would be suitable for certain animals to snack on.
Melbourne Zoo has a specialised plantation at Werribee Zoo which consists of 16 tree species totalling 9000 trees. However, donations of tree branches still make up approximately 40 to 50 percent of annual ‘browsing’ food at the zoo.
Melbourne Zoo coordinates donations from Parks Victoria, local councils, a number of schools and Arbor companies. This is the first time Melbourne Water has donated to the program.
Regional Services Manager (West), Emily Phillips, said the initiative was the bright idea of a Melbourne Water team member.
“One of our staff identified that many of the weed and tree species we were removing had to the potential to be animal feed and this was confirmed by Melbourne Zoo,” she said.
“From there we arranged a 7 tonne excavator to load a Melbourne Zoo truck during downtime in our weed removal works, meaning fast and efficient load times which didn’t impact our other works. In total Melbourne Water provided 11 truckloads of donated woody materials for the animals.”
Woody feeding material must meet strict standards to ensure its suitability for the animals. This includes ensuring only correct trees of appropriate species and age are selected, monitoring how these plants are removed and stored, and confirming that no pesticides have been used on them.
Common plant species suitable for zoo animals include Poplar, Ash, Willow, Elm, Coprosma, Prunus, Apple, Bamboo and Acacia. Animals which are enjoying the woody weed snacks at the Zoo include Elephants, Giraffes, Tortoises, Bongo Tapirs, Orangutans, Gorillas, Lemurs, Baboons, Gibbons, Reptiles, Tree Kangaroos and Hippos.
The donation of this material also provides additional benefit to Victorian taxpayers, as it has saved Melbourne Water on disposal costs, machinery hire and labour.
“This project showcases what can be achieved when organisations work together.  We’re very pleased to be able to provide this service to the Zoo and will be looking for further opportunities to contribute donations like this in the future."
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