Empty Zoo Exhibit Space Turns Into Vegetable Garden For Animals

Tuesday, July 10th 2012, 7:39 pm
By: News On 6

A little vacant space in the back yard could be the perfect spot for a garden.

Maybe you plant tomatoes, some peppers—fresh produce in the summer is wonderful.

The same thing is true over at the Tulsa Zoo.

A bit of vacant exhibit space is providing fresh produce for the animals.

Jay Ross is the horticulture curator, responsible for stuff that grows, like the mulberry tree he was busy trimming Tuesday, and, of course, vegetables.

The space, many will recognize as the home of the butterfly exhibit several years ago.

Recently, though, the space wasn't being used for anything, so Jay and his staff re-appropriated it.

"We call it the commissary garden, because it supplements our commissary, so they can feed it out to the animals," Ross said.

There are peppers, cabbage and kale, and lots of tomatoes.

"I know we're not making a significant dent in our food budget, but at the same time, we know where it came from. It's local and it's sustainable," Ross said.

And it's clean. They use no pesticides in the garden.

The heat and drought has taken its toll on some of the plants. Most people wouldn't eat them, but they're not intended for us, anyway.

"The elephants will eat them," Ross said. "Elephants will eat anything."

That includes the mulberry trimmings. Mulberry is on the approved list of enrichment foods for elephants, among others.

Nothing gets wasted—mulberry trimmings or vacant exhibit space.