Leafy branches from trimmed trees around electrical lines provide snacks for St. Louis Zoo animals | Arts and theater

One recent afternoon, Rivers Edge keepers Tori Mattingly and Madi Culbertson helped cut and sort…

One recent afternoon, Rivers Edge keepers Tori Mattingly and Madi Culbertson helped cut and sort the browse along with several others from different parts of the zoo. “This is very clean compared to what we normally do,” Culbertson jokes.

The pair had spent the morning cleaning the indoor and outdoor habitats of the elephant barn. When they put out the browse in piles, the elephants head straight to it, they say.

“A lot of times, they like to start swinging it around,” Mattingly says. “One of the elephants, Rani, I see her a lot of times putting it on top of her head. She wears it like a flower crown. She really likes browse.”

The elephants stand around the pile of browse to socialize and eat, and sometimes the keepers put the browse up high, to simulate the way elephants find browse in the wild.

One recent morning, a pair of keepers walked into the outdoor gorilla habitat with bins of hay, melon, lettuce and browse, placing the food on the ground, in stumps, and up on hammocks for gorillas to find, like a breakfast Easter egg hunt. The keepers went inside, then the gorillas wandered outside.

One gorilla used a stick to pick at food left in the stump, and another gorilla gathered browse from the ground. He hugged it to his chest like a scepter, then perched with it at the top of the log, watching the activity below.