Historical Wildlife

Elephant Fountain TLCAudubon Zoo finds natural solutions to protect trees

In a city rich with history, the oldest living thing in New Orleans, Louisiana, is at the Audubon Zoo. The oaks – with the de Boré oak planted as early as 1740 – are all more than 100 years old and top attractions at the zoo, which has deep roots in the past.

The zoo creates a natural compost, which they call ZooDoo Gold, to use on the grounds.The zoo creates a natural compost, which they call ZooDoo Gold, to use on the grounds.

To protect these several-century-old trees, the zoo’s grounds crew takes special precautions, which includes adding lighting-protection wires. They also shoot air into the ground around the roots a few times each year to help eliminate compaction, says Dianne Weber, grounds director at Audubon Zoo.

They have to go natural when it comes to giving the trees nutrients. Since zebras, rhinos and other animals graze under and around the oaks, the zoo grounds team can’t use fertilizers with chemicals. Instead, they create their own, which they call ZooDoo Gold.

They use plant clippings, tree chippings, oak leaves, shredded office paper, fruit and vegetable waste from the concessions, Starbucks coffee grind, cardboard boxes and contributions from zebras, ostrich and elephants.

After combining the materials, they heat the pathogen-free compost to 150 degrees. Once it’s the right consistency, they sift and bag it. Any leftovers are sold in the gift shop and to local garden shops.

While none of the animals were lost during Hurricane Katrina, Weber and her team had a lot of work in front of them after the storm hit New Orleans and are still dealing with the aftermath, which includes eliminating weeds that spread during the devastation.

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