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,...

Preliminary investigations into circulating vitamin E concentrations in captive okapi (Okapia johnstoni)

Normal circulating vitamin E levels have not been established for okapi (Okapi johnstoni) on a captive diet. Blood samples were obtained in 1996 by the Okapi SSP for free-ranging okapi in Zaire (Lukas, 1996). In 2009, vitamin E levels were acquired for animals housed at the Epulu Station in the Democratic Republic of the Congo fed an all leaf diet...

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...

Managing diabetes through diet in black-footed tree rats (Mesembriomys gouldii) and greater stick-nest rats (Leporillus conditor)

Clinical and pathological signs consistent with diabetes mellitus (DM) were observed in a collection of Black Footed Tree Rats (BFTR; Mesembriomys gouldii) and Greater Stick-Nest Rats (GSNR; Leporillus conditor) housed at Taronga zoo. Review of the medical records of eighteen BFTR between 1991 and 2014, and thirty eight GSNR between 1995 and 2014, revealed a high frequency of animals with...

Investigation of a new diet formula for captive short-beaked echidnas (Tachyglossus aculeatus)

Short beaked echidnas (Tachyglossus aculeatus) are myrmecophages, ant and termite specialists, and replicating their diet in captivity is problematic. Captive diets often incorporate raw meat, eggs and cat food mixed together with water and vitamin and mineral supplements. These diets have presented a number of health problems, such as cystitis, gut impaction, obesity and diarrhea. This study aimed to assess...

Interpreting vitamins and mineral concentrations in serum of exotic species: lab values are not infallible

The prospect of trust and laboratory analysis is often so frightening a concept, scientists in the zoo field, including nutritionists and veterinarians, do not discuss it as more than a side note. Often we trust that specialists in biochemistry and new analysis technologies ensure proper verification of lab methodology, and would inform the consumer of any difficulties or questionable data....

Impact of dietary n-3 and n-6 PUFA on oxidative status and inflammation in yellow-rumped warblers

The intake and ratio of the essential fatty acid classes, n-3 and n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), impact animal health. The dietary ratio of these fatty acids can be important as n-3 PUFA are considered anti-inflammatory, while n-6 PUFA are pro-inflammatory. Additionally, the increased number of double bonds in PUFA makes them more vulnerable to oxidative damage, potentially increasing the...

Hand-rearing and growth of a grey seal (Halichoerus grypus)

Typical grey seal lactation lasts 15-21 days, followed by abrupt weaning by the dam and a several weeks long period of relatively significant weight loss while the pup learns to feed and fend for itself. It was with this natural history in mind that we formulated a grey seal hand-rearing protocol pending the birth of a female pup in early...

The growth responses of two polar bear (Ursus maritimus) cubs to regimented dietary energy

The growth of polar bear (Ursus maritimus) cubs depends to a large extent on litter size and the provision of maternal care, specifically, milk production and the sharing of prey (Derocher and Stirling, 1996, Robbins et al., 2012). Cubs in most subpopulations stay with their mothers for up to 2 ½ years and rely solely on maternal milk during the...

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...

Evaluating the nutrition of a flock of non-breeding greater flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber roseus) at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

A flock of 150 greater flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber roseus) at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park were moved to a new enclosure in 2010 to provide them a larger exhibit and to promote the breeding of lesser flamingos (Phoeniconaias minor) that shared the previous exhibit. Since the greater flamingos moved, they have not laid eggs through June 2015. A nutrition...

Effect of dietary soluble fiber on gut microbiota in the sugar glider (Petaurus breviceps): a pilot study

The sugar glider (Petaurus breviceps) is an exudativore in nature, eating plant gums, saps, resins, manna, and nectars as well as insect-based honeydew and lerp, with proportions of various ingredients highly dependent on seasonality and locale (Smith, 1982; Howard, 1989). Despite a well-developed cecum that could, in theory, harbor microbial populations with fermentative capabilities (Hume, 1999), a majority of captive...

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...

Birth weights and growth rates of giraffe and okapi at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

There is a lack of information available regarding the average birth weights and growth rates of many exotic animal species. This information can prove useful when evaluating the health of new born animals in a zoological setting. Within 24 to 48 hours of birth, giraffe (Giraffa camelopardis) and okapi (Okapia johnstoni) at Disney’s Animal Kingdom are weighed and health is...

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...

A different angle on geometrical analysis of diets: developing a tool for using geometry to communicate nutrition to laypeople

Geometric analysis provides an intuitive and powerful tool to examine the diet and feeding behavior of animals. Because of its visual nature, it may also be a powerful tool to assist in communications with laypeople, such as clients or zoo staff members, who are often intimidated by a more numerical analysis. A new tool, a ternary graph using color for...

Nutrient composition of the milk of the giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla)

Little information exists about milk composition in obligate insectivores or in members of the mammalian superorder Xenarthra. A total of 37 milk samples collected from 3 lactating giant anteaters (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) were assayed for proximate nutrient content at the Nutrition Laboratory of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute using standard methods developed at the Nutrition Laboratory. Water comprised 88.7 ± 2.1%...

A review of the nutrient content of commercial feeder insects and strategies for increasing their nutrient content

Insects are an important source of nutrients for a wide variety of captive insectivores including many reptiles and amphibians. Nutrient analysis of many of the more common commercially available feeder insects has now been published. These data are reviewed and discussed in light of the fact that unlike many free ranging animals, insectivores in captivity are fed a limited number...

Hypovitaminosis A: influence of three diets or topical treatment on hepatic, adipose, and plasma retinoid concentrations and presence of squamous metaplasia in Mississippi gopher frogs (Rana capito servosa)

Hypovitaminosis A has been linked to health concerns in amphibians causing squamous metaplasia of the tongue, bladder, kidneys and other organs. Juvenile Mississippi Gopher Frogs (Rana capito servosa) at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium (n = 32) were randomly assigned to one of four vitamin A treatment groups including three dietary feeder cricket treatments and one topical vitamin A...

A targeted metabolomics assay to measure purines in the diet of managed and free-ranging common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncates)

Ammonium urate nephrolithiasis occurs in common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) managed under human care but not in free-ranging dolphins (Smith et al., 2013). In mammals, purine-rich diets, such as the piscivorous diet of dolphins, can predispose to urate urolith formation (Osborne et al., 1995). The total purine content of food is measured commercially by summing the concentrations of four purine...

A comparative nutrient analysis of fish species consumed by managed and free-ranging common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncates) with respect to ammonium urate nephrolithiasis

Ammonium urate nephroliths develop in common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) managed under human care, but do not occur in free-ranging dolphins (Smith et al., 2013). In mammals, urate urolith development has been attributed partly to the effect of diet on urine saturation and pH. Free-ranging and collection dolphins consume diets that differ in fish species variety, location, and fresh versus...

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)....

Utilization of pork and pork by-products for nutritional management of captive exotic felids

Currently beef and horse comprise the majority of raw meat diet formulations marketed by US companies manufacturing and supplying carnivore diets to zoological institutions. Pork-based diets have traditionally not been fed to managed exotic carnivores, primarily because of microbial and pathogenic concerns, and nutrient digestibility of pork has not been evaluated in captive exotic felids. Additionally, the pork industry currently...