Sites earmarked for clearance can be rich sources of kai for animals. Edible foliage such as twigs, branches, shoots and leaves, is known as “browse” and is in hot demand at Auckland Zoo.

“Browse is an important and nutritious part of an animal’s diet,” explains Ruth Nielsen, from the browse team at Auckland Zoo. “From the tallest mammal on earth, the giraffe, to Aotearoa New Zealand’s giant wētāpunga, browse benefits so many species here.”

Adored elephant Burma eating banana palm from a Kāinga Ora site

Given the voracious appetites of wild animals, the zoo needs a constant and plentiful supply of browse, so Kāinga Ora leapt at another opportunity to contribute to a good cause.

"Being able to support the zoo is a privilege,” says Liz Ellis, a Stakeholder Relationship Manager for Kāinga Ora. "Any tree trimming and clearing is done in line with our commitment to improving biodiversity and urban ngāhere outcomes(external link), and we are always looking for new ways to work with the local community while reducing waste in our projects. This initiative makes our hearts sing."

Kaimahi from the zoo’s browse team joined Kāinga Ora staff onsite to choose suitable plants, then worked directly with our arborist, Treetops, to collect the browse.

“Treetops gave us access to the site on the day, saving us a lot of time and energy by felling and removing the plants, then loading up our trucks. It was the easiest collection we have ever had. We ended up filling three truckloads to capacity!” says Ruth.

Browse also has uses beyond kai for animals. One of the ways zookeepers use browse is to encourage an animal’s natural foraging behaviour. For example, in the wild, orangutans are known to make tools from items they find around them. They can strip down leafy branches to create instruments to extract kai such as lentils or pureed vegetables within a frozen pinecone.

“The wide variety and large volume of vegetation covered half a week’s worth of browse needed for the zoo. We collect at least 140 bushy, 2-metre long branches for our giraffes each week.

“Banana is a fantastic plant for the primates and elephant Burma will munch through many plants each week. Bottlebrush flowers are a favourite for birds and primates; they love the sweet nectar and Burma will eat the branches and leaves. And our big cats love the lavender; new, fragrant vegetation is great enrichment for them.”

Happy munching to our wild friends at Auckland Zoo(external link)!

Squirrel monkeys at Auckland Zoo munching on pōhutukawa and Burma the elephant eating banana palm


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Page updated: 6 March 2024