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A zookeeper offers eucalyptus leaves to a koala joey. (Reuters/Tim Wimborne)

A zookeeper offers eucalyptus leaves to a koala joey. (Reuters/Tim Wimborne)

Israel Cruz trims eucalyptus trees. (Reuters/Australian Outback Plantation)

Israel Cruz trims eucalyptus trees. (Reuters/Australian Outback Plantation)

Israel Cruz unloads eucalyptus branches from a truck. Koalas will eat the leaves. (Reuters/Australian Outback Plantation)

Israel Cruz unloads eucalyptus branches from a truck. Koalas will eat the leaves. (Reuters/Australian Outback Plantation)

Kids feed Patricia the giraffe at the San Francisco Zoo. (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, Katy Raddatz)

Kids feed Patricia the giraffe at the San Francisco Zoo. (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, Katy Raddatz)

A zoo worker watches giraffes at feeding time at the Oakland Zoo. (AP/Ben Margot)

A zoo worker watches giraffes at feeding time at the Oakland Zoo. (AP/Ben Margot)

City Food for Zoos

Posted: January 1, 2023

Got extra eucalyptus?

Jorge Trujillo will take it.

He eHe gathers eucalyptus from the edges of gardens around San Francisco, California. Why? He works for the city zoo, and he has koala bears to feed.

Do you have a favorite food? Koalas do. In fact, they usually eat one thing: eucalyptus. They get most of their water from eucalyptus too. (Eucalyptus leaves are about 70 percent water.) To most other mammals, the plant is toxic.

One koala can eat more than two pounds of eucalyptus in one day. That can be a serious problem for zoos. Like koalas, eucalyptus comes from Australia. (No surprise! God put the creature and its food source right together.) But what about zoos not in Australia? It costs a lot to ship frozen eucalyptus overseas. Once it thaws, it lasts for only a day or two. Because of this, only zoos where eucalyptus flourishes can keep koalas.

Eucalyptus trees grow fast. Aussies brought them to the United States during the U.S. Gold Rush to build houses quickly. But eucalyptus turned out to make poor building material. People left it to grow wild. Good thing, because now the zoo’s two koalas can have dinner every day. The zoo workers gather 60 tons of plant matter from the city for them each year.

Mr. Trujillo says their dinner is not always easy to find. “Sometimes we struggle very much,” he says, “especially in the winter.”

Other zoos also hunt for local vegetation. They use it to feed anything from apes to zebras. Trimmers chop branches from acacia trees in back yards. These trees belong in Africa, not California. But they go to good use. They fill the bellies of Oakland Zoo’s five giraffes.

Why? God made the world teem with nourishing plants for people and animals to enjoy.