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Hi everyone, it’s Sara Fee in Gorillas again! I started at Zoo Atlanta about two years ago, which is also when I moved to Atlanta. I had only been to Georgia a few other times before but had always heard great things about Atlanta and how it is called the “City in the Trees.” Now originally being from southern Arizona, I had never really experienced a city as lush and green as Atlanta, but now living here I have been able to watch the glorious transformation that occurs over the seasons. They are not joking calling it the “City in the Trees.” Watching the city grow from the bare leafless branches in the winter, to the rainbow of colorful flowers in spring, to the fluffy, bold, magical green leaves that stick around through the summer. Now is the time that most of those flowers have gone away and the trees seem to be bursting at the seams with big juicy leaves.

It may seem weird that I refer to tree leaves as juicy, but when I see so many of those trees, I think about how much the gorillas at Zoo Atlanta love to eat them. That’s right; our big, muscular gorillas are leaf -adoring vegetarians who love to chow down on some of the local delectables that come from different places in this beloved city. This tree material we refer to as “browse.”  Along with many other leafy greens and vegetables (think garden salad), our veggie-loving gorillas munch this smorgasbord of goodness all day, every day. Thanks to a fantastic Horticulture Team here at Zoo Atlanta and the wonderful partnerships with have with organizations outside of Zoo Atlanta such as Georgia Power, our gorillas get extra special browse and lots of it during the spring and summer.

You’re probably wondering where all this browse comes from when the city isn’t overflowing with fast-growing green deliciousness? Well, glad you asked! Because browse is so important for our gorillas, we have it shipped in. Our gorillas also love the bark of many tree species such as willow and oak, so we can continue to offer them branches even if leaves aren’t available. I think the gorillas here at Zoo Atlanta really prefer the home-grown goods, and let they us know their favorites by singing to us with their own unique voices. Some gorillas’ vocalizations sound like donkeys (Machi); cows (Kuchi); or even ghosts (Merry), but all tell us “Mmmmmmm yeah, that’s the good stuff!”

Now, not all the yummy-looking trees around town are safe for the gorillas to eat; some are actually toxic and can make them sick.  Our Horticulture Team really knows their stuff, because there are many different tree species here in Georgia. We as members of the care team also need to know what plant material we are giving to our gorillas for safety, as well as just to know what kinds their favorites are.  Just like some people only enjoy strawberry or blueberry jam, some gorillas only enjoy elm or oak trees. Believe it or not, oak is preferred by our gorillas over honeysuckle, which sounds very tasty to me.

Our Horticulture Team is in full swing here at the Zoo, trimming, pruning, and cutting back tree vegetation daily.  I’m sure a lot of people at home are probably experiencing the same thing and are not sure what to do with those cuttings. Not only do the gorillas here at the Zoo enjoy some of those tender tree morsels, but other animals do too! If you’re looking to unload when you do a large pruning job, reach out to Zoo Atlanta to see if those trimmings are items that we can feed out to provide an extra snack or two for some of your favorite Zoo Atlanta animals.

Until next time, I hope everyone has a great spring!

Sara Fee
Senior Keeper, Gorilla Care Team

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