Zoo nutrition with budget constraints


Irlbeck NA. 1999. Zoo nutrition with budget constraints. In Proceedings of the Third Conference on Zoo and Wildlife Nutrition, AZA Nutrition Advisory Group, Columbus, OH.


It is becoming apparent to the zoo community that a quality nutrition program is a key to improved animal health, and potentially added contentment of the animal. Improved nutrition can also lead to enhanced breeding programs. However, even realizing this, many zoological institutions can not yet justify the cost of a full-time nutritionist. Therefore, a question often asked is, “How can an institution implement a nutrition program without a nutritionist?” A consulting nutritionist may be a partial answer, however, there are some preliminary steps that can be taken to facilitate the process of making nutrition a reality. Some of these include: 1) Determine who will coordinate the nutrition program at the institution – it helps if this person has some influence in the zoo community; 2) Ensure that management supports or agrees to work with the coordinating individual; 3) Develop diet cards for each species to accurately determine the diet of each animal, including treats; 4) Purchase at least one scale to be kept in a central area (i.e., commissary) where it can be utilized to weigh diet amounts – “exactly how much does a scoop of feed weigh”?; 5) If forage/ feed is purchased in bulk, representative samples could be analyzed to determine nutrient content and verify quality; and 6) Bring in a visiting or consulting nutritionist to present the fundamentals of nutrition and to stress their importance in a workshop setting. With implementation and support of these steps, the “seed” to successful nutrition can grow.

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