Some Zoo Grass Is Electrified

Some zoo landscaping is designed to keep the animals within their cages, not for them to interact with

Photo: Gail Mooney/Corbis

Zoos today are much cheerier places than they were in years passed. Metal bars and concrete slabs have been replaced by open-air enclosures complete with lagoons and lush vegetation. But as the Society Pages wondered recently: "How is it that the landscaping remains so nice?  Why don’t the animals eat it, lie down on it, rip it to shreds for fun, or poop all over it?"

Electricity is the answer. Some of the landscaping is not landscaping at all, but nicely disguised barriers. The company Total Habitat, Society Pages writes, manufactures all sorts of cleverly concealed tools for helping zoos around the world "protect their valuable trees and landscaping from animal destruction, while virtually disappearing within the naturalistic environment."

There's hot grass, for example, which forms long, clumped chains that are electrified through off-the-shelf electric fence chargers, the company explains. The grass comes in two forms—tall and econo (short). Hot vines, on the other hand, can be custom built to guard a tree, with "hot tentacles every 9" that are strategically positioned to contact an approaching animal." 

None of these contraptions are actually that harmful, Total Habitat explains. They deliver just enough of an unpleasant shock that the animal quickly learns to stay away. So while zoo landscaping might look like an oasis for a bear or tiger, Society Page points out that "these attractive, naturalistic environments are more for us than they are for the animal. They teach us what the animal’s natural habitat might look like and they soothe us emotionally, reassuring us that the animal must be living a nice life."

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