These animals that recycle our Christmas trees

In recent years, the fashion has been to recycle Christmas trees in livestock farms, and even in zoos that give them to their animals. They would be a source of vitamins and environmental enrichment…

When the holidays are over, the same question arises every year: what to do with the dried up Christmas tree that adorned the living room? Do not search anymore. Give it to farms or zoos that are very fond of it!

Christmas trees for all kinds of animals

Those who love it the most would be goats, but not only. Camels, oxen, bharal (Himalayan goats) and takins (Himalayan cattle) do not disdain, in their menu, a few thorns or fir bark.
Other animals do not eat them but take advantage of them as an enrichment structure. This is the case at the Mulhouse zoo, where trees collected from individuals are distributed to tigers and primates to stimulate their senses. “The tiger has a reaction somewhat equivalent to that of the cat which encounters catnip in an apartment. It is an organic material, so there are smells, textures, colors that are different from what animals usually encounter in their enclosure”, explains Brice Lefaux, veterinarian at the Mulhouse zoo. “It is a type of enrichment, whether for handling (we will hide the food inside) or for food consumption.

images of La Tanière refuge zooElephants at La Tanière zoo-refuge have fun handling Christmas trees

A treat for some animals

If this recycling of Christmas trees becomes popular and that zoos and farms collect more and more each year, the quantities distributed to the animals must remain reasonable. At La Tanière zoo-refuge, near Chartres, Sébastien Muller, zoological manager, recommends “ half a tree of 1 m for a goat”. For veterinarian Brice Lefaux, the health risk remains minimal. “It is often the gathering animals that are interested in this type of product and they will not eat everything. The animals self-regulate very well, there are no side effects on their health”, reassures the professional.

A few precautions should be taken before giving a tree to animals. The tree must be rid of its decorations, whether Christmas balls, garlands or angel hair which, once ingested, can cause intestinal obstruction. It should not be coated with dry ice or hairspray, which can be toxic to animals.

Local initiatives on farms and in cities

If zoos are sometimes a bit far from city centers, several municipalities organize collections for them by creating collection points. In Mulhouse, this participatory initiative has made it possible, according to Brice Lefaux, to create “a direct link between the citizen and the welfare of the animals in the zoo.”
More accessible, sheep and goat farms are also fond of these collections. In Savoie, for example, Mayalène Ghilardi’s educational farm, ”O p’tit bonheur agricole”, saw nearly 500 Christmas trees placed in front of its door for its 40 goats and 30 ewes. “This is the third year we’ve done it. We realized that our animals liked trees when our goats ran away from their pen and devoured our Christmas tree, says Mayalène Ghilardi. So, we inquired and we saw that it was full of minerals and vitamins, and that they loved it! We said to ourselves that we were going to pick up Christmas trees, we started with family, friends and after, we proposed that to the surroundings”. Since then, word of mouth has worked at full speed and more Christmas trees are coming in every year.

A recycling model

The animals mainly eat the thorns, the tips of the branches and the bark. When the animal has finished its feast or played enough with the tree, the remains are collected to be used again. The remaining elements of the conifer such as trunks and branches are then crushed and used as mulch. A useful product for certain plants or for animal bedding. This recycling method produces no waste. In the end, there’s not a crumb left!

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