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Turning Steel Into Trees: Designing Artificial Trees at Greenview Zoo

In our latest endeavour, we took on a very exciting project for some very special lemurs! Alicia Patten, owner and operator of Greenview Park & Zoo, reached out to us to help design and execute some unique artificial trees for their lemur exhibit. These trees would not only serve as a functional habitat but also offer a canvas for creativity and innovation in animal enrichment. So please read along as we delve into the process of crafting these arboreal wonders! 

Sketching the Trees


Every great creation starts with a vision! Sean began by sketching various tree designs, taking inspiration from the natural habitats of lemurs. Aiming for diversity in shapes and sizes, these trees needed to cater to the lemurs needs and preferences. Sketching allowed him to explore different possibilities and refine his ideas before moving forward.


Sean was given full creative control, along with some photos of the enclosure, and measurements. He was then able to replicate and produce the faux trees you will now see when visiting the zoo! So make sure you check out our YouTube video below to see exactly how these trees came to life, Alicia’s reaction to the big reveal and the lemur’s enjoyment!

Designing the Shapes


Once the sketches were finalized, Sean transitioned to designing the actual shapes of the trees. Opting for a blend of realism and functionality, he ensured that the trees not only resembled their natural counterparts but also provided ample opportunities for lemurs to climb, explore, and play. The design phase involved considering factors such as branch placement, stability, and overall aesthetics.

Utilizing Steel and Bending into Branches


Steel piping emerged as the ideal material for crafting the sturdy framework of these artificial trees. Sean meticulously bent and welded the steel into intricate branch structures, mimicking the organic curvature of real trees. Attention to detail was paramount to ensure that the branches were not only visually appealing but also capable of supporting the lively antics of the lemur residents. He also took into consideration the existing raised barn door where the lemurs enter and exit the enclosure, making sure there was a long ramp-like branch meeting the lemurs as they came out!

Covering in Paint and Zoo Epoxy


To achieve a natural finish, layers of paint and Zoopoxy by Polygem were applied to the steel framework. The paint of course needed to mimick the different hues of bark, while the epoxy added texture and durability, ensuring that the trees could withstand the rigors of daily use. This process transformed the cold steel into a warm inviting space, seamlessly blending into the surroundings of the lemur exhibit.


Incorporating Tube Ends for Constant Engagement


One of the unique features of these artificial trees was the incorporation of tube ends into the branches. These tube ends serve as interchangeable sockets, allowing the zoo crew to insert real tree pieces such as branches, leaves, or even food items. This special design promotes content engagement among the lemurs, providing them with ever-changing stimuli and fostering natural behaviors like foraging and exploration.

Make sure you check out our in-depth video here ⬇️

Reasons Zoo Habitats Use Artificial Trees:

1. Safety and Durability: Artificial trees are constructed using sturdy materials designed to withstand the wear and tear of animal activity and environmental factors. Unlike real trees, which can be prone to disease, rot, and breakage, artificial trees offer long-lasting durability, ensuring a safe and stable habitat for the animals.

2. Customization: Artificial trees can be custom-designed to meet the specific needs and preferences of different animal species. From varying heights and textures to specialized features such as climbing surfaces or hiding spots, artificial trees allow for greater flexibility in habitat design, catering to the diverse needs of zoo inhabitants.

3. Hygiene and Maintenance: Unlike real trees, which require regular pruning, watering, and pest control, artificial trees are virtually maintenance-free. They eliminate the need for ongoing upkeep, such as leaf litter removal or branch trimming, reducing the risk of disease transmission and streamlining habitat management efforts.

4. Consistency and Control: Artificial trees offer a level of consistency and control that is difficult to achieve with real trees. They maintain their appearance and structural integrity over time, providing a stable environment for animals to interact with. Additionally, artificial trees allow zookeepers to create seasonal variations or thematic elements within habitats without relying on natural growth cycles.

5. Environmental Considerations: In regions where suitable tree species may not thrive or where habitat restoration is impractical, artificial trees offer a sustainable alternative. By reducing the need for harvesting natural resources or importing exotic plants, artificial trees contribute to conservation efforts and minimize ecological impact.

About Greenview Park & Zoo:


Greenview Park & Zoo has been a labor of love since its inception in 1983 by the Greenway family. What began as a breeding facility for birds and waterfowl blossomed into a beloved family day trip destination. Over the years, the Daly family poured their hearts into expanding the park, adding new exhibits and attractions each year.


After 38 years of dedication, the Daly’s passed the torch to the Patten family, who brought a fresh vision and passion for animal care. For Alicia Patten, the decision to take on this new adventure came during a difficult time, but it felt like fate, a gift from her grandmother.


At Greenview Zoo, Alicia’s aim is to reconnect people with nature in a world dominated by screens. She wants to provide an opportunity for visitors to breathe in the fresh country air and learn about the diverse species that inhabit our planet. Her hope is to ignite a passion for environmental stewardship in younger generations, inspiring them to care for and preserve the natural world for years to come.


Thank you for stopping by the blog today! Designing and executing unique artificial trees for the lemur exhibit at Greenview Zoo was a project filled with lots of love and creativity. From the initial sketches to the final installation, every step was guided by our commitment to providing the best possible environment for our furry friends! These artificial trees will not only enrich the lives of the lemurs but will also serve as a testament to the power of innovation in zoo habitat design.

We hope we can continue to be the place that animal sanctuaries and zoo’s turn to, allowing us to create realistic habitats for all creatures, one faux tree or rock at a time!

Until next time - ROC



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