If a tree falls in the forest and an elephant hears it, does it make a salad? It does at Zoo Knoxville.
The zoo's elephants are hungry and want to put donated fresh-cut trees and leafy branches on their menu.
"They'll eat between 200 and 300 pounds of trees every day. They absolutely love trees. Especially fresh-cut with nice green leaves," said Becca Wyatt, lead elephant keeper at Zoo Knoxville. "We have a few tree service companies that help us out, but we would love to have more help."
Thursday the zoo posted a request on its Facebook page for "trees, please." The response was immediate.
"It's been incredible. We've already had hundreds of comments and calls all afternoon," said Wyatt.
You don't need to chop down an entire tree to donate. Zoo Knoxville accepts yard trimmings, so a fresh pile of branches you're hoping to get rid of will suffice.
Call ahead to schedule a drop-off at the zoo if you're cutting down trees or doing yard work and want to contribute to the elephants' salad bar. If you are planning to cut down a tree, you can notify the zoo ahead of time and they will help haul the fresh plants directly to the elephants.
"We will pick up trees and branches within a 15 mile radius of the zoo, but it needs to be a size where two people can handle it," said Wyatt.
Branches and leaves should not be older than three days. However, it can accept older trunks (no pun intended, for once).
"They love Bradford pear, mulberry, hackberry. And [the elephants] are spoiled, so they're picky. We have spoiled them with fresh trees and now they expect fresh trees," laughed Wyatt.
The one elephant in the room they cannot ignore is the presence of toxic chemicals.
"Trees treated with insecticide or pesticide, or if the city has recently come by and done the mosquito spray, we can't collect those trees. That's just for the health of the elephants," said Wyatt.
Here's a list of the savory species of trees the zoo prefers:
* Bradford pear
* Sugar Maple
* Silver Maple
* Chestnut Oak
* White Oak
* Eastern redbud
* River birch
* Box Elder
If you'd like to donate, call 865-637-5331 ext. 1281 to schedule a pick-up or delivery.