Feb 05

Tree-cycling at Busch Gardens Gives New Meaning to Going Green

You’ve probably already taken down your tree and put it away for another year, or left it by the curb for recycling, but what do you do when you have 1,500 Fraser fir trees left after the holidays? Below, our bloggers share how they help Busch Gardens tree-cycle the trees that filled the park with a holiday glow during Christmas Town.

Sheila, Horticulture Tech

Part of the beauty you enjoy during Christmas Town comes from the large amount of cut trees that are placed throughout the park, not just along the walkways, but also in the wooded areas that can be viewed from the bridges or rides. These lit trees add color and charm to your visit. But at the beginning of the New Year, they all have to go somewhere!

Christmas Town Trees Wait to Be Turned into Mulch

Once the crews pull the trees and strip off the lights, we are able to recycle them in house by chipping the trees and the chipped material is then set aside to age for a couple months. In spring when we do our mulching, the recycled chips are used in back areas and under mature trees, creating a clean look and saving hardwood mulch for floral beds.

Fresh Mulch is Visible in the Eagle Ridge Habitat

Jennah, Associate Animal Care Specialist

The end of Christmas Town means it’s time for Christmas tree enrichment for the animals! Many of our Animal Ambassadors receive trees that were on display during Christmas Town to investigate and explore. We give some of our smallest animals, like our African pygmy hedgehogs, branches from the trees.

Our larger animals like Pindari the Wallaroo can get an entire tree to explore. There are some animals that seem to find the trees especially interesting, such as Mtoro the African serval, KC the Two-toed sloth, Ada and Kisa the Red ruffed lemurs and Otus the Eastern screech owl. Sometimes the smell and texture of the tree is interesting enough to the animals, but we may also hide food or toys in the tree for the animals to find.

Kendell, Animal Trainer

Although Christmas Town is one my of my favorite times of year, the animals at Wolf Haven enjoy the aftermath of Christmas Town. Once the lights are removed from the all the trees, we check them for anything left over from decorations that might not be safe for the animals. Then they become “enrichment”. Our goal for offering enrichment to the animals, is to keep them stimulated with new items in their environment, encourage natural behaviors and for just plain fun!

When the wolves are introduced to the trees, they are very interested in all the smells that come with them. Did you know a wolf can scent mark approximately every 4 minutes? Once they have access to the trees that is usually the first thing they want to do. When Sikko and Odin, our two arctic wolves, found them they immediately “claimed” them as their own.

My favorite animals at Wolf Haven to give the trees to are our red foxes. We hid some of their diet throughout the branches and this encourages that natural foraging behavior. It also encourages some really entertaining play behavior. Roxy especially was excited to bounce in the branches as she raced around the trees. For those of you that have housecats at home, this probably sounds familiar to you. I attempt to keep my cat out of the Christmas tree every year. Our cats would be very jealous of Roxy’s Christmas tree antics!

Roxy the Fox Explores a Christmas Town Tree

Stephanie, Animal Care Specialist

We collect a stack of the trees to use as enrichment for our Scottish Blackface sheep, goats and Clydesdales with the help of the grounds and landscape crews. The sheep and goats will push the trees around the pastures and chew on the needles and the bark. We generally throw about three Christmas trees in every couple of days for them to enjoy. Our ram will push the trees up and down hills in his pasture as well as scratch the areas behind his horns on the branches.

Eddie Examines a Christmas Town Tree

Every time a new tree is put into the pasture the sheep and goats will come running up to play with and chew it. The Clydesdales will pick up the trees, kick at them and chew on the bark and needles. As a bonus, our pastures smell like Christmas all off season long. Check out last year’s blog for more pictures and video of our animals enjoying their off-season treat!