Sustainability Success: Partnership diverts waste from landfills and helps animals

Larry Moore
Office of Communication
March 11th, 2019 at 2:45PM

A picture of Sarah Hines, Julie Grove, Joe Burns, Lisa Daly, Alistair Small, Jacqueline Emanuel, Gary Barrett, Stephen Dombroskie and Rascal the Laughing Kookaburra.
Caption: USDA Forest Service employees, Maryland Zoo zookeepers, and founder of Hose2Habitat Lisa Daly pose with a “browser”; a braided fire hose used as an enrichment product for animals in zoos and wild life refuges. From Left to right: Sarah Hines -USFS, Julie Grove - Maryland Zoo, Joe Burns - USFS, Lisa Daly Hose2Habitat, Alistair Small – Maryland Zoo, Jacqueline Emanuel - USFS, Gary Barrett – USFS, Stephen Dombroskie - Maryland Zoo, and Rascal the Laughing Kookaburra. (Photo credit: Sydney Beasley)

Enrichment is essential for all animals. For animals housed in zoos, aquariums, and wildlife sanctuaries, enrichment helps stimulate an animal’s senses by mimicking what they would experience in the wild. Hose2Habitat, a nonprofit based in Maryland, found an innovative way provide enrichment to animals and the USDA Forest Service is helping out in a big way.

The partnership got its start when a Forest Service fire fighting operations center in Redding, California found that they were sending 13 tons of waste—much of which was fire hose—to landfills every year. Because they wanted to reduce their waste, they reached out to Hose2Habitat, which was able to distribute the waste to organizations in need, and even run workshops on transforming the waste into enrichment devices.

Fire hose is durable and malleable by design and allows for enrichment products like “browsers” to be created with limited budgets. Browsers are braided hoses that are filled with leaves and treats, making interaction with them challenging and rewarding for animals like Flemish giant rabbits, parrots, chinchillas, and a prehensile-tailed porcupines. For these reasons, fire hose and waste materials are in high demand and the Forest Service has streamlined its process to get those materials to Hose2Habitat.

Makoda the American badger poses with her new bed that a zookeeper made out of fire hose and wood scraps.
Makoda the American badger poses with her new bed that a zookeeper made out of fire hose and wood scraps. (Photo Credit: Sydney Beasley)

Since the start of the program the Forest Service has transferred around 2,000 lengths of scrap fire hose to Hose2Habitat. To give some perspective on how much hose this is, there are currently around 30,000 lengths of good hose in the North Zone Fire Cache sitting in the warehouse, ready to be deployed. With the agreement to streamline in place, the Forest Service is hoping to increase the amount of scrap hose that gets transferred to Hose2Habitat.

Hose2Habitat also has a growing schedule of upcoming workshops with an increasing amount of transferred hose lined up across the United States, and even internationally in Indonesia and the United Kingdom.

A picture of Rico, a prehensile porcupine.
Rico is a prehensile porcupine who is often given fire hose to keep in busy as part of his enrichment activities.

“Hose2Habitat gives us a unique opportunity to achieve our own goals of sustainable waste management,” said Sydney Beasley, at the Forest Service’s National Partnership Office. “We’re excited to develop our partnership, get more hose and waste materials to our partner, divert waste from landfills, and enrich the lives of more animals!”