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Royal Oak, Sterling Heights

Zoo browses for ‘browse’ animal food freezer

February 5, 2014

» click to enlarge «
Elizabeth Arbaugh, interim mammal curator at the Detroit Zoo, opens a box of browse, or vegetation, that is stored in the freezer for animals such as giraffes and gorillas. The freezer was supplied by SRC Refrigeration in Sterling Heights.

ROYAL OAK — The caretakers of a critically acclaimed polar bear exhibit and penguinarium now have another frigid star behind the scenes: a big, new commercial freezer that keeps animals’ cuisine chilly.

A few months ago, the Detroit Zoo in Royal Oak welcomed the freezer’s installation, and zoo officials say it makes it easy to store animal grub, called “browse” — another way of referring to vegetation, twigs and leaves. Zoo officials say the freezer has expanded their storage of vegetation and animal food by 200 percent.

Stephanie Allard, the zoo’s director of animal welfare, thanked the freezer’s supplier, SRC Refrigeration in Sterling Heights, for its support. She said the freezer is something that the zoo has looked forward to having for a long time.

Allard explained that the browse is just a supplement to the nutritious, balanced diet that animals normally receive. But she said the material often gives animals psychological benefits.

“Manipulating these (browse) items and processing them, it’s a very important part of what they do,” she said. “It’s not just nutrition. It’s a behavioral opportunity, as well.”

Allard explained that, in warmer weather, the zoo staff gathers the browse material from trees and bushes that are safe for animal consumption. However, the material needs to be stored at cold temperatures to preserve it.

While the zoo previously had a smaller supply of browse for the animals during the winter, now they will able to store more, she said.

As the program expands, Allard hopes to be able to offer browse to more of the creatures.

“So far, they include our giraffes, our gorillas, our kudu — these are some animals that really benefit from it,” she said.

Steve Lemieux, president and CEO of SRC Refrigeration, said he and his wife have been Detroit Zoo members for 16 years. He said the zoo searched out and contacted his company in mid-August to request help on acquiring a freezer.

He said he reduced the price of the 12-by-12-foot freezer from around $15,000 to around $13,000. SRC did the final installation in September, he added.

“We helped them find a good, local contractor to help them do the local site work … in cooperation with their maintenance crew,” Lemieux said. “We think it’s a great thing, and we’re very honored to be a part of it.”

Learn more about the Detroit Zoo at or call (248) 541-5717. Learn more about SRC Refrigeration in Sterling Heights at or call (800) 521-0398.

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