Power lunch: Branches trimmed by utility crews are being turned into feed for Maryland Zoo animals

That munching sound you hear at the Maryland Zoo is the sound of giraffes, elephants, tortoises and other animals saving taxpayers big bucks.

A new program has begun providing the zoo’s animals with branches that have been trimmed from healthy trees by electric utility crews. The vegetation — known as “browse” — is reducing the zoo’s feed costs by almost $2,000 a week, according to a BGE news release.

The sight of workers in hard hats being hoisted skyward in baskets while they cut tree branches away from electric power lines has become increasingly common in Baltimore in recent years.

According to the release, the stepped-up trimming program has resulted in a 40 percent decrease in tree-related outages since 2011. Last year alone, utility crews cleared vegetation from more than 2,300 miles of circuit lines.

That’s a lot of greenery that was going to waste until earlier this summer.

“Once BGE vegetation management crews identify healthy and diet-appropriate trees, trimmings are bundled and delivered to the zoo twice a week,” the release said. “Animals both small and tall, from tortoises and rabbits to elephants and giraffes, are fed the browse, which is spread throughout their enclosures to encourage natural foraging behaviors.”

Similar programs benefit zoos in Chicago and Philadelphia.

“BGE has been a long-time supporter of the Maryland Zoo and we couldn’t be more proud to partner with them,” Don Hutchinson, president of the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, said in the release. “Not only are the animals benefiting from such fresh vegetation, we are able to funnel the funds we are saving to other areas of animal care within the zoo.”

mmccauley@baltsun.com

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