BROOKFIELD, Ill. (WLS) -- Many of us have a favorite snacks. For animals at the Brookfield zoo, like the okapi and wallabies, "browse" is a go to.
"It's the most natural thing that we can give them as part of their diet," explained Jennifer Watts, the Brookfield Zoo's director of nutrition. She says leafy branches from various plants, known as browse, are a fresh source of fiber helping more than just digestion.
"It also helps engage them in natural behaviors to help them get those leaves and branches...they're using their muscles, they're using their brains the way that they were supposed to in terms of that behavior...that chewing of the branches actually helps keep their teeth clean," Watts added.
Unfortunately, browse takes a big bite out of a zoo's budget; in years past the Brookfield Zoo would only buy enough for the animals most in need. But then ComEd changed the equation by offering up tree limbs it clears away from power lines.
"About 20 % of service interruptions and outages are caused by trees and other vegetation interfering with the lines," explained ComEd's Senior Vice President for Regulatory and Energy policy and General Counsel Veronica Gomez.
She said crews clear the way for about 9,000 miles of ComEd power line each year, sending branches tumbling to the ground with a flurry of saw dust in tow. Normally, that would mean a wholesale trip to the wood chipper.
But greenery collected near the Brookfield Zoo has a longer journey ahead. ComEd bundles animal snacks separately from the other trimmings and ships them to the zoo free of charge.
With truckloads of browse feeding several of its species, the Brookfield Zoo said it saves at least a quarter million dollars each year. As a result, animals like rhinos and lemurs have a treat to nosh on and other programs get additional funding.
"We say 'we power lives,'" said Gomez of ComEd's slogan, adding, "it's really cool that that's not just human lives."
It's really taste too- depending on which species you're asking.
ComEd helps feed Brookfield Zoo animals