Where the Wild Things Eat

Zoo animals go locavore.

By Sarah Skidmore September 21, 2011 Published in the October 2011 issue of Portland Monthly

IN A CITY of restaurant gardens and edible yards, even the animal kingdom wants in on the homegrown act. This fall, a new garden at Metro’s headquarters on NE Grand Avenue started producing specialty crops for Oregon Zoo animals. From antelopes to zebras, zoo residents will feast on garden clippings, known in the exotic-animal-care business as “browse.” The zoo also hopes the new crops will help animals mimic the constant interaction with nature that they experience in the wild.

“They have other choices,” says Chris Massey, the zoo’s operations manager. “But this is really what we’d prefer they eat.”

The evergreen huckleberry is favored by prehensile-tailed porcupines. Sword ferns are ?beloved by orangutans. The bald-hip rose goes to giraffes, who eat around the plant’s thorns. The Indian plum is ?one of the earliest-blooming Oregon native species and is favored by zebras. The western teaberry is green year-round and makes a nice winter treat for the springbok. The vine maple provides a good leafy browse for chimpanzees, and its branches can also be used as ?a perch.
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