The Hungry Hungry Hippo

In January 2017, Fiona the baby hippo was born at the Cincinnati Zoo six weeks premature and some 30 pounds underweight. Getting Fiona to put on pounds was a life-or-death matter. Unfortunately, nursing wasn’t an option, and the only hippo formula recipe on file was old and out of date. To devise a new one, team Fiona turned to the...

Featuring a great inter-institutional collaboration!
“A hippo, an orangutan, and a scientist walk into a milk bar…” or so our story goes.

Click the image to take a listen.

This story is also featured on CNN as a Great Big Story.

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Guidelines for the Humane and Ethical Acquisition and Management of Vertebrate Feeder Animals (Excluding Fish)

It is vitally important that omnivorous and carnivorous species in the care of zoos and aquariums receive the appropriate foods needed to meet their nutritional and behavioral requirements. Oftentimes this entails using ‘feeder animals’ as part of their diet.  It is important that zoos and aquariums accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) make certain that feeder animals...

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

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,...

Nutritional analysis of mixed produce for exotic species using near infrared reflectance spectroscopy (NIRS)

Near Infrared Reflectance Spectroscopy (NIRS) has long been established as a fast, easy, and cost effective technology for measuring basic organic components utilized in diet formulations. In zoological facilities, accurate timely quality control of diet ingredients, including highly variable items and those with a short shelf life, such as produce, can be difficult. We utilized traditional wet chemistry data from...

Feeding frenzy: turning the science of zoo nutrition into a game for kids

In 2012, Busch Gardens opened the Animal Care Center to the public to share general information about the techniques and science involved in preventative and emergency care of the 12,000 animal residents of the zoo as well as local injured wildlife. Zoo educators teamed up with the veterinary and nutrition staff to develop demonstrations and interpretive elements that would share...

Evaluation of browse composition: vitamin E

Vitamin E is an important antioxidant, and deficiency is known to impact the reproduction, growth, and immunity in many species. Dietary browse can be an important source of vitamin E for animals housed in zoological institutions; however the contribution of these items to total dietary vitamin E likely varies by browse species and across time. Our objective was to evaluate...

Evaluation of a commercial vitamin and mineral supplement in milk replacers on serum nutrients in pre-ruminants

Since opening in May 1972, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park has hand-raised hundreds of ruminant neonates. In order to improve success rates and generate appropriate protocols with any hand-reared neonate species, it is important to document each animal’s daily status and changes implemented to husbandry practices with each experience. Milk formula composition and consumption, solid-food intake, body weights, and...

Designing an online hand-rearing resource center: first steps

In 2014, Safari West and the Safari West Wildlife Foundation (Santa Rosa, CA) hosted “The Inaugural AZVT (Association of Zoo Veterinary Technians) Focus Group: The Art and Science of Hand-Rearing”, a symposium that was attended by 80 zoo professionals from around the globe. With the initial focus on carnivores and hoofstock, twenty international speakers provided their insights into both historical...

Common aquatic ingredient nutrient analyses: balancing practical feeding with long term aquatic health

Optimizing dietary formulations for aquatic species is one of the most challenging aspects of nutrition for exotics. Whether designing diets for elasmobranches, fish in a multi-species aquarium, or marine mammals, understanding the nutrients provided in the food is essential. Ideally, designing aquatic diets utilizes both known body weights of the target species, and analyzed nutrient contents of diet items. Repercussions...

Commercial aquatic diets and water quality

Water quality is an important limitation of diet choice and feed amounts in ornamental aquaria. Advanced life support system technology (a.k.a. water treatment) allow aquaria to maintain proper water quality; however, addition of diet items to the water is regarded as a key component impacting water quality maintenance via the load presented to life support systems. Herein, we evaluated nutrient...

Calibration development for rapid assessment of fish species for dolphins in human care using near infrared reflectance spectroscopy (NIRS)

Near infrared reflectance spectroscopy (NIRS) is a fast, accurate, and cost effective method for analyzing organic compounds. Dolphins as a species are highly sensitive to changes in the energy and nutrient contents of their diets. We analyzed monthly samples (n=148) of capelin, herring, and squid for dry matter, crude protein and crude fat. The dried and ground samples were returned...

Analysis of nutrients, moisture loss, and vitamin stability in primate browse harvested at the San Diego Zoo

The objective of this study was to obtain nutrient profiles along with insight on rates of moisture and vitamin loss in browse harvested at San Diego Zoo Global (SDZG). Ten species of browse commonly offered to colobines were manually separated into leaf and bark components for analysis at a commercial laboratory. Findings indicate that a variety of browse species and...

Feeding strategies in wild carnivores: progress report of a model approach

Feeding strategies among wild carnivores are still partly unexplained. Carnivore mass is a determining factor in the choice for a specific range in prey size (Carbone et al., 1999). According to Carbone et al. (2007), two dietary groups can be distinguished: small carnivores hunting on small prey (< 20 kg) and large carnivores hunting on large prey (> 20 kg)....

Ex situ amphibian nutrition: recent findings and future directions

In 2013 a workshop was hosted to evaluate the current understanding of amphibian medicine and nutrition, in order to further our progress in establishment of successful breeding programs to promote amphibian conservation (Olea-Popelka et al., 2014). The Nutrition Working Group identified a number of challenges and opportunities for advancement in this field (Ferrie et al., 2014). First, an overarching theme...

Considerations to maximize nutrient supplementation of feeder insects

Providing a nutritionally appropriate diet to amphibians and other insectivores under human care has long proved challenging. The number of available insect species is limited and typically deficient in key nutrients such as calcium and vitamin A. Until more nutritionally balanced options are available, actions should be undertaken to improve the nutritional quality of feeder insects such as the domestic...

Understanding the interactions of diet and lighting on frogs and their symbiotic bacteria to improve ex situ husbandry of amphibians

Amphibians are undergoing massive population declines in the wild, in part due to infectious diseases including chytridiomycosis, caused by the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). In response, amphibian populations are being maintained in ex situ breeding programs while viable treatments for chytridiomycosis are developed. One potential action involves the use of symbiotic bacteria from the skin of amphibians; however multiple...

Tools and techniques for successfully grinding fish for tube feed formulas

Grinding fish in a blender is very complex because the fish often need to be processed to some degree and there are many choices of blenders. Suggested blenders to use include Waring blenders of various sizes, homogenizers, or smaller, but more affordable, Magic BulletÒ or NutriBulletÒ. Using a meat grinder, chopping, filleting, skinning, and successive blending are all methods of...

The tools we use: outfitting your operation for efficacy and efficiency

Outfitting your nutrition operation can feel a bit like building an arsenal with which you can draw from to fight the good fight that is feeding your animals. However, what you put in your arsenal will depend entirely on your goals as a department and the space and capacity you have available. Wherever your operation lands on the centralized/decentralized commissary...

Food safety training for keepers in decentralized zoo kitchens

A food safety program was developed for training keepers in a decentralized zoo kitchen system. Instruction covered food safety standards of the state of Illinois; reviewed information regarding USDA and AZA food safety standards; and provided keepers with action-based steps they could take to prevent food safety concerns. In addition, lead keepers had separate sessions to ensure food safety standards...

Financial aspects of zoo diet management

Food purchases tend to be one of the greatest expenses, beyond salaries and benefits, for the maintenance of any zoo collection. For this reason, the commissary/food budget is one that receives a lot of attention during the budget planning process. Upon each accreditation inspection, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) requires proof of financial stability, including insurance coverage, evidence...

Creation of the Zoo and Wildlife Nutrition Foundation

The Zoo and Wildlife Nutrition Foundation (ZWNF) was formed in March 2012 and became an official 501(c)3 organization a year later. The Foundation was established for the purpose of contributing expertise and providing funds to support the field of zoo and wildlife nutrition worldwide, furthering the science of zoo nutrition, facilitating the dissemination of nutrition knowledge, and developing the next...

Evaluation of diets offered to elephants in Brazilian zoos

In order to improve the quality of life for captive elephants maintained in Brazilian zoos, the Brazilian Society of Zoos and Aquariums (SZB) organized a workshop concerning management of elephants in zoos in November 2014. Evaluation of nutritional husbandry was identified as a priority. Thus, diets were assessed from information obtained for 4 African (Loxodonta africana) and 12 Asian (Elephas...

I want to be a zoological animal nutritionist or veterinarian but how do I afford the cost of my education? Student debt relief

The high cost of education and the burden of student debt prevent many from pursuing and remaining in public interest careers. Our world has a growing need for higher degrees, but the cost of educating our populace is shifting to students and families. The average student loan debt for a Bachelor’s degree exceeds $30,000 while the debt for advanced degrees...

Apple leaves and bark as browse items for herbivorous monogastrics under human care

Many zoological institutions are faced with challenges when developing and providing a diet for their non-ruminant browsing herbivores. The most prominent issue remains providing readily available, safe and sufficient quantities of plant material. Zoos are often forced, usually by climate, to utilize seasonally available, local, appropriate and or novel plant species in order to decrease the effort and expense required...

Prevalence of antibiotic resistance in zoo animal foods

Antibiotic resistant bacteria have been isolated from various human foods. These findings suggest that the food chain may play a role in disseminating antibiotic resistance to consumers. We will discuss the principals of antibiotic resistance and our recent study investigating the presence, identification, functionality, and transferability of antibiotic resistant bacteria and antibiotic resistance genes isolated from zoo animal foods. A handout with an extended...

Napoleon didn’t conquer Europe by feeding his army rotten tomatoes or how to get the most from your produce investment

Proper handling and storage of produce items can increase shelf life thus positively impacting budget. At the Saint Louis Zoo we have tried various approaches to storage and have a system that works well for us. From which items to hold in the Kitchen area and to which produce items to hold in the cooler and the storage method that extends product integrity,...

Food safety and sanitation

Food Safety and Sanitation is a big aspect of our daily operation and by providing a safe and clean environment you can maintain quality food for the entire collection. The purpose is to help others understand that by doing everything possible to reduce and, or eliminate the threat of food-borne illnesses, that you can keep your food, equipment and staff...

Commissary standards and assessment

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden (CZBG) developed the “standards and assessment program” (S&A) as a coaching tool to assist the curatorial staff and supervisory keepers in animal operations at the zoo. This program tailors each section to meet the needs of that animal area following the standards set up by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Association of...

Managing zoo diet information: introducing the next generation of software

We all want to feed our animals well. Yet within zoos and aquariums different stakeholders concentrate on different aspects of feeding; some may be mostly concerned with the nutrient content, others with the way food is presented. The physical and behavioral health of animals may be a principal focus and sustainability, efficiency and costs are becoming increasingly significant drivers. Obviously...