Supporting Customers

These Zoos Were Made for Browsing, That’s Just What ComEd Does

May 16, 2024

Across Chicago-area zoos, browsing isn’t just encouraged, it’s a vital way of life! Just like how we enjoy browsing through our favorite websites or stores, the animals at local zoos are natural-born browsers. But what exactly is “browsing” in the animal kingdom?

Think of it as a buffet of tree limbs and branches, where every nibble is a taste of the wild. These furry and feathered creatures are on a mission to munch their way through the day, and it’s all thanks to a special program brought to you by ComEd!

Browsing isn’t just about filling bellies—it’s about keeping the lights on, too! ComEd trims approximately 35,000 miles of tree lines in northern Illinois to help mitigate power outages caused by trees making contact with overhead wires.

To make the most of these tree trimmings, ComEd has partnered with local zoos through ComEd’s Browse Program. ComEd delivers browse bundles to zoo partners throughout warm months to provide tasty treats for the animals.

“Tree trimmings are carefully selected and delivered by ComEd, ensuring that every nibble is packed with flavor and nutrition,” said Kelvin Limbrick, Sr. Vegetation Management Program Manager at ComEd. From maple to mulberry, these browse bundles are a feast for the senses, satisfying the appetites of giraffes, rhinoceroses, bears, camels, monkeys, and goats alike.

Besides being tasty, these tree trimmings are good for the animals’ gastrointestinal and dental health. The browse also provides behavioral enrichment of the animals. Having access to a variety of plants and trees supports a more stimulating and changing environment for the animals by allowing them to continuously explore their exhibits. Occasionally, ComEd also delivers logs for the zoo staff to build into the creatures’ habitats.

One Nibble at a Time:

About 50 cubic yards (cu yds) of selected branch trimmings or browse are generously donated to local zoos. This year alone, ComEd’s browse for the zoo program saw an impressive delivery of 195 cu yds to Brookfield Zoo and 85 cu yds to Lincoln Park Zoo. If these branches were stacked up, they would be as tall as a 50-story building, or the Waldorf Astoria Chicago hotel!

Since the inception of ComEd’s program, in 2011, a total of more than 1,000 cu yds of browse has been delivered to local zoos. “Excess browse is placed in large bags and remain frozen by the zoo staff for year-round treats for the animals,” added Kelvin.

In 2011, ComEd’s Smart Grid team brought the idea to a board meeting and the rest, is history!

ComEd’s Vegetation Management department started teaming up with local zoos to turn this browse into tasty treats, which is an enrichment and supplemental food for the zoo animals.

Before the program’s existence, ComEd’s trimmings were typically stored on ComEd property until the wood material was able to be processed into mulch products and donated for use in gardens and landscaping efforts, while the zoos were limited to finding their own property, and it was indeed a scarce resource.

“ComEd’s tree trimming efforts and the zoo’s enrichment program showcase a harmonious partnership dedicated to the welfare of both wildlife and electric infrastructure,” concluded Kelvin.

Every effort that ComEd makes is to preserve strong reliability and is met with a strong focus on sustainability and giving back to communities, like supporting the amazing animals at local zoos and keep their bellies full of browse delights!