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Branch To Browse

We’ve branched out to help support the animals at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo and Potawatomi Zoo in South Bend. Through our Branch to Browse partnership, some of the trees and branches our forestry crews regularly trim are donated and delivered to the zoos.

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.

How It Works


Our forestry crews work hard to keep power lines clear of trees and brush, because trees and brush are the number one cause of all power outages! At least every four years in Indiana and every five years in Michigan, crews assess the trees around our power lines and equipment in neighborhoods and trim back or remove any threats. It’s all about keeping the power on. While our crews are out and about, they are also on the lookout for hollow logs and perching material for zoo animals.


Based on an approved list of non-toxic plant species from the zoo, we identify and bundle some of the fresh tree trimmings, branches, twigs, as well as hollow logs or perching materials. Our team regularly delivers these by truckload to the zoos.


A horticulturist inspects the tree trimmings to make sure they are safe for the animals and determines how much should be transported to each area within the zoos.


The Animal Care staff at each location then delivers the tree trimmings for the animals to enjoy. Whether it’s used by a bird to build a nest or eaten by a monkey as a nutritious midday snack, the fresh browse will be put to good use. A giraffe can eat on average between 20-50 pounds of browse a day. This partnership will save the zoos hundreds of thousands of dollars.


The best part? The cycle continues — helping to keep your power on and providing an ongoing supply of browse for the animals.

Learn more about our forestry crews and their commitment to keeping your power on.


Browse are leaves, shoots and twigs of shrubs and trees used primarily as food for various animals at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo and the Potawatomi Zoo in South Bend.

There are many animal species that will benefit from the tree trimmings including okapi, giraffes, bison, porcupines, monkeys, apes, zebras, wildebeests, birds, kangaroos and even ambassador animals that visit classrooms and camp.

Fresh, locally sourced browse offers many benefits to animals, including health, enrichment and nutrition. Below you’ll find just a few specific examples of how browse helps animals.

Adding tree trimmings to a habitat provides additional opportunities for enrichment as well- increasing activity levels and spurring mental stimulation with the power of choice. Species such as otters, feather tail gliders and hyenas can decide if they want to hide in/crawl through or simply scent mark plant material they receive. Birds, including macaws and lorikeets, use browse as a natural substrate to perch, manipulate, sharpen their beaks and build nests. Many avian species enjoy nothing more than spending countless hours shredding the tree trimmings.

Browse supports dental health for a wide variety of species, including rodents such as beavers, capybara and porcupines, with their continuously growing teeth.

The fresh tree trimmings also promote opportunities for animals to express their natural behaviors. Think about the amount of time a gorilla troop spends foraging together in their native habitat — taking the time to be together as a family stripping bark from branches, sharing a meal and then preparing nests to sleep.

The zoos have approved the following species of trees for the animals: maple, oak, ash, willow, pear, mulberry, hackberry, elm and sycamore. Each zoo has a specific list.

It’s a team effort. The forestry crews work to gather non-toxic plant species, while the zoos inspect the leaves and branches closely upon arrival to make sure they are safe for consumption.


Email us at IMforestry@aep.com.

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