5 Animals That Would Love Your Used Christmas Tree

Stephanie Pilick, AFP/Getty Images
Stephanie Pilick, AFP/Getty Images

With Christmas now behind us, you might be thinking about taking down your tree soon. If you have a real tree, don’t be so quick to throw it out with the stale cookies and ripped wrapping paper, though. Many animals enjoy eating or playing with pine trees, so you may want to check with zoos or farms in your area to see if they’ll take it off your hands. Below, we’ve listed five animals that won’t turn down a tasty tree, as well as several locations that are currently accepting them. (But if you’re planning to donate, make sure to remove the tinsel and decorations first!)

1. Kangaroos

The North Georgia Zoo in Cleveland, Georgia is accepting donated Christmas trees for the “enrichment” of its kangaroos, porcupines, camels, wolves, and other furry residents. “Enrichment is a fancy word for entertainment,” Rachel Heck, visitor experience lead at the zoo, tells the Gainesville Times. “It keeps their minds stimulated.” Different animals use the trees in different ways, but kangaroos in particular like to grab and play with the branches, which are suspended above their enclosure. The zoo will accept trees until January 1 as long as they’re still green and chemical-free.

2. Goats

Goats will eat just about anything, and Christmas trees are no exception. The Lewis Farms & Petting Zoo in New Era, Michigan will happily accept Christmas trees until the end of January, which will be used to feed its goats. The pine needles are chock-full of Vitamin C and they also help control worms in the animals. Cindy Lewis, co-owner of the farm, tells the Detroit Free Press “The goats can devour a tree in a matter of minutes, they get very excited!”

3. Pigs

Much like goats, pigs also stand to benefit from snacking on pine trees, which serve as a natural dewormer. The Funny Foot Farm and Petting Zoo in Tucson, Arizona accepted leftover trees from a nearby tree farm, and zookeepers plan to feed them to their pigs and goats. Zoo officials say it also cuts down on their food bill, so everyone wins.

4. Otters

When you’re an otter, a Christmas tree is a fun obstacle course to climb through. That’s why caretakers at the Ellen Trout Zoo in Lufkin, Texas are accepting Christmas trees this holiday season. If you’re planning to make a donation, the zoo asks that you call first at 936-633-0399 before dropping off your tree.

5. Elephants

In recent years, The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee has been giving resident elephants Christmas trees to munch on around the holidays. The trees supplement the elephants’ usual diet and provide an extra dose of nutrients, thanks to the sweet resin they contain. They also make a nice plaything, and you can watch an elephant tossing around a branch in the video above. The sanctuary will accept paint- and dye-free trees until January 2 at a designated drop-off point in the Sanctuary’s back parking lot.

Fish Tube: How the 'Salmon Cannon' Works and Why It's Important

PerfectStills/iStock via Getty Images
PerfectStills/iStock via Getty Images

If you’ve been on the internet at any point in the past week, you’ve certainly come across footage of wildlife conservationists stuffing salmon into a giant plastic tube and shuttling them over obstacles. It’s so bizarre—even by the already loose standards of the web—that it briefly ignited discussions over fish welfare, its purpose, and the seeming desire of people to be similarly transported through a pneumatic tunnel into a new life.

Naturally, the “salmon cannon” has a mission beyond amusing the internet. The system was created by Whooshh Innovations, a company that essentially adopted the same kind of transportation system featuring pressurized tubing that's used in banking. Initially, the system was intended to transport fruit over long distances without bruising. At some point, engineers figured they could do the same for fish.

The fish payload is secured at the entrance of the tube—acceptable species can weigh up to 34 pounds—and moves through a smooth, soft plastic tube that conforms to their body shape. Air pressure behind them keeps them moving. The fish are jettisoned between 16 and 26 feet per second to a new location, where they emerge relatively unscathed. Because there’s no need for a water column, the tubing can cover most terrain at virtually any height.

The tubing solution is a human answer to a human problem: dams. With fish largely confined to still bodies of water thanks to dams and facing obstacles swimming upstream to migrate and spawn, fish need some kind of assistance. In the past, “fish ladders” have helped fish move upstream by providing ascending steps they can flop on, but not all fish can navigate such terrain. Another system, trapping and hauling fish like cargo, results in disoriented fish who can even forget how to swim. The Whooshh system, which has been in used in Washington state for at least five years, allows for expedient fish export with an injury rate as little as 3 percent, although study results have varied.

The video features manual insertion of the fish. In the wild, Whooshh counts on fish making semi-voluntary entries into the tubing. Once they swim into an enclosure, they’re curious enough about the tube to go inside.

If all goes well, the system could help salmon be reintroduced to the Upper Columbia River in Washington, where the population has been depleted by dams. Testing of the device there is awaiting approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

[h/t Popular Mechanics]

Virginia Zoo Is Auctioning Off the Chance to Name Its New Red Panda Triplets

bbossom/iStock via Getty Images
bbossom/iStock via Getty Images

The red panda population at the Virginia Zoo grew significantly earlier this summer, The Virginian-Pilot reports. On June 18, mother Masu and father Timur welcomed a brood of triplets into the world, bringing their total number of offspring up to five. The three red panda babies are currently without names, but the zoo is giving a few lucky bidders the chance to change that.

Red pandas are endangered, with fewer than 10,000 of them living in their natural habitat in the Eastern Himalayas. Red panda breeding programs, like the one at the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk, are a way for conservationists to rebuild the species's dwindling numbers.

In 2017, Masu relocated to Virginia from the Denver Zoo as a juvenile. Zookeepers paired her with a male red panda there named Timur, and in June 2018, she delivered twin cubs named Adam and Freddie. Red pandas typically breed in the spring and summer months and usually have just two babies at a time. But when Masu gave birth again this past June, she had three tiny cubs.

The three new red panda babies each weighed about 5 ounces when they were born and weigh roughly a pound today. Masu has been moved to a private, climate-controlled den to care for her young and will be returned to her original exhibit with her cubs sometime this fall.

By the time they make their debut, the youngest red pandas at the Virginia Zoo will have names, chosen not by the zoo, but by members of the public. Starting yesterday, August 19, and ending August 30, the zoo is holding an online auction for the naming rights of each of the three red panda cubs. As of press time, the honor of naming the two boy red pandas has already been sold for $2500 each, and the current bid for the girl stands at $1000. All the money that's raised will be donated to the Zoo’s conservation partner, the Red Panda Network.

Perhaps due to the results of previous public naming contests, the Zoo did lay out a few stipulations for the winning bidders. It won't accept any repeat names of red pandas that have lived there in the past. Additionally, "any racial, religious or ethnic slurs, explicit language, obscene content, reference to alcohol, drugs or other illicit substances or otherwise unlawful, inappropriate, objectionable, or offensive content" will be rejected. All name submissions from the winners are due to the zoo by September 9.

[h/t The Virginian-Pilot]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER