Seattle – We use computers and phone apps every day to check on our friends, play games, and even pay bills.
A locally created app is now being used to help source the freshest local green for animals at Woodland Park Zoo.
KIRO 7 met a zoo curator who was instrumental in sourcing the custom-made technology.
At the 91-acre zoo, about 1% is devoted to what collections manager Erin Sullivan calls “surfing.”
“There are very few plants and trees that are edible and consumed by our animals. Therefore, to be able to give them the opportunity to have new leaves, trees, branches and bark to eat, we grow the plants on bases that we can harvest and feed to the animals here at the zoo,” Sullivan said.
Green spaces provide not only food but also enrichment for animals.
“It’s just the thing to keep them occupied and occupied. It’s enrichment. Stripping the bark is really fun,” Sullivan said.
In the spring, we see budding plants and leaves, but they disappear by winter.
“Then, in the fall it’s a little more difficult, and in the winter it’s more difficult. And so,[it’s good]if we can make use of these trimmings. We’re also looking at silage to be able to put some of these twigs and trees in, and canning them,” Sullivan said. Basically, so that our summer surfing is available in the winter for the animals, which is also very exciting.”
This stock is where a new custom app comes in, courtesy of Seattle City Lite.
Animals need green space and the city needs tree trimming.
“What they did was they looked at all the different lines that tree crews go to when working in the Seattle City Lights,” Sullivan said.
City Light drew a sketch of these lines, and all the trees and plants around them.
“It would make a lot of sense for us to work with City Light when they cut down those trees,” Sullivan said.
So zoo employees know exactly what is being cut, where to receive it, and which animals to give it to.
“So it’s been an amazing amount of work they’ve done for us and we didn’t expect to make our lives, as far as knowing where to start working with them, that much easier. We’re really excited to see where this is going in the future because we can see it,” Sullivan said. It grows and evolves into a much larger application.”
The Seattle Department of Transportation’s road crews are also involved in the effort.
“They’re delivering things to us as well. It’s really exciting, and I think it’s going to be rewarding for everyone when we’re able to support SDOT and Seattle City Light to do their jobs, but then we can take these trees and give them to the rhinos,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan said the zoo has a few other partners, too.
“We have partnered with Oxbow Farms, and even some local nurseries have also donated Christmas trees to us,” Sullivan said. “It was so much fun talking to people about browsing.”
But it’s not as simple as going out into the first year and trimming the bushes. There is a lot of research behind getting plants.
“We have a horticultural department here that knows what grows well on zoo grounds and what would do the trick in our climate, and then we also spoke to other programs, other varietal advisory groups, and other zoos to find out what other plants people fed,” Sullivan said.
“And they check all the research we have with them to see if anything is going to be harmful to the animals. Once they go through every bit of those checklists and the whole process, we know it’s a Browse-certified plant and it goes into a very special list that we can grow here and collect as well.” From some local neighborhoods, too, she said.
“Where would you like to see this app with Seattle City Light?” asked KIRO 7 Sullivan.
“I would like to see this partnership grow and evolve, to see the application grow and evolve, and to really help us focus on where the best place to collect these plants is in Seattle. I would like others to use this as a model for other zoos on how to partner with their local facilities so they can benefit from browsing there.”
The partnerships are also key, Sullivan said, due to the lack of space to expand browsing.
“You can tell from our surf parks here and on the ground that we don’t have a lot of space. We have a lot of access to a lot more surfing by doing these partnerships with Seattle City Light and SDOT and things like that,” Sullivan said.
“It makes our browsing zoo grow beyond Woodland Park Zoo, and it kind of sets the pace or sets the direction for other zoos to get fully involved. It really is a great template for other people to use, and we hope they can see our app and see some of the work we’re doing. and excite it and do the same.”
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