Christmas trees benefitting animals at Potawatomi Zoo

NOW: Christmas trees benefitting animals at Potawatomi Zoo

SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- The Potawatomi Zoo accepted Christmas tree donations this holiday season as a part of a tradition that benefits a variety of animals.

Animals throughout the zoo, despite size or species, use the Christmas trees to stay active during the winter cold.

“It is amazing what a wide variety of animals do with these trees,” said Maria Sheehan, a Swing Keeper at Potawatomi Zoo.

While the trees can be used to stimulate the animals, the donations can also be used as a nesting spot or even as a snack.

“They all do something different with them,” said Josh Sisk, Executive Director. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a bison who’s going to hit it with their horns or a little mongoose that’s going to climb through the branches and hide and you know, play around on them. They all have a different use for it depending on the species.”

While not all zoo animals pay attention to the trees, many of the species do and it is a refreshing way to keep animals of all shapes and sizes moving, according to zookeepers.

“The zookeepers here, I mean they spend their entire careers just trying to find ways to keep their animals enriched,” said Sisk. “To keep them busy and active so for them, it’s great. It’s an exciting time for them because they love seeing what the animals do for them.”

The potbelly pig, otters, mongoose and cow rushed to check out the trees with curiosity as zookeepers placed the donations into the exhibits.

“It’s a good way to get them active in the winter time,” said Sheehan.

People drive from miles and miles away just to donate trees to the zoo, making sure no animal goes without a post-holiday snack, according to Sisk.

Both Sisk and Sheehan said now is a good time for the community to see how the support helps the animals.

“I think for them it’s nice to know that something they use for just a month or a few weeks is being repurposed again further than just using it as a Christmas tree,” said Sheehan.

Sisk said the zoo is grateful for an outpouring amount of support from the community to drop off trees and help out Australian zoos battling wildfires.

“As a zoo…all zoos across the country have been raising a lot of funds to go towards the efforts in Australia and there’s a lot of wild life being affected there,” said Sisk. “And even just our last Winter Day we had an outpouring of people giving donations that went directly to the efforts being done in Australia. We have a bake sale ready to come up on our next Winter Days that we will also be donating to these fires. So it’s just great to see the community come out and you know, it’s not just about supporting our zoo, but it’s about coming together as a community and looking at conservation and meeting all its needs out there.”

The Potawatomi Zoo is no longer accepting Christmas trees due to a generous amount of donations.

Zoo officials said the animals will likely have enough trees to last until the spring.

For anyone interested in donating Christmas trees next season, all trees must be natural and free from any chemicals or paint.

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