So you (don’t) think you need a nutritionist?

Citation

Maslanka M, Henry B, Ward A.  2015.  So you (don’t) think you need a nutritionist?  In Bissell H, Brooks M Eds. Proceedings of the Eleventh Conference on Zoo and Wildlife Nutrition, AZA Nutrition Advisory Group, Portland, OR.

Abstract

The first zoo nutritionist was hired at the Smithsonian National Zoo in 1978 (Crissey, 2001a). At the time, this zoo and others were acknowledging the importance of a qualified zoo nutritionist and the value of a zoo nutrition program to the health and welfare of the animals in their collection. To date, nearly 20 AZA accredited facilities in North America, and several others world-wide, have followed suit. However, even given the clear value of a qualified professional on staff to focus their attention on the nutritional care and welfare of the collection, most AZA accredited zoos have not hired full time nutritionists. In lieu of a full time nutritionist, many zoos rely on either their veterinarians, curators, and other animal care staff, or consultants for this pivotal responsibility. There are likely a wide variety of reasons for this, but most may revolve around available resources (primarily financial), an over-valuing of a part-time or consulting focus on collection animal nutrition, and a limited understanding of the benefits of a qualified nutritionist dedicated to the zoological collection. This brief paper addresses some of these issues, and provides background for zoos to justify the hiring and maintenance of a qualified zoo nutritionist as part of their animal care team to meet the mission of their institution and build capacity.

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