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So what DOES a zoo’s shopping list look like?

28/10/2010 09:57:28

Sixty tonnes of apples and pears feed more than 16,000 animals

October 2010: Thirteen tonnes of carrots and four tonnes of eggs may sound like a rather large food order - but not when you're ZSL London Zoo.

EATING IN: London Zoo has more than 16,000 
animals to feed, including Dirk the tortoise

Every week the Zoo's grocers throw more than a tonne of bananas and apples into their shopping trolley when they make a visit to Covent Garden Market in central London.

A weekly visit to a meat market is required by the zoo's onsite butcher to keep the lions, tigers and hunting dogs happy. This results in nearly nine tonnes of meat being consumed by the hungry zoo residents every year.

Supermarkets deliver unsold veg to the zoo
With more than 600 different species of animals to feed including gorillas, giraffes and pygmy hippos the team has quite a task on their hands.

The zoo, run by conservation charity the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), buys an array of different foods including nearly two tonnes of cabbages, three tonnes of tomatoes and four tonnes of grapes every year.

Some of the zoo's sustainable fruit and veg comes from local supermarkets which, instead of wasting unsold food, deliver lettuce and other tasty greens to the zoo's herbivores.

Making animals work for their food - just like they would in the wild
Exotic and unusual foods are also on the menu, including nearly 240 coconuts for the zoo's hyacinthine macaws and bearded pigs plus 78 kilos of popping corn for its four gorillas.

And deciding what to feed zoo animals is a science in itself. Zootrition, a sophisticated computer programme, helps zookeepers create a diet equivalent to that which the animals would eat in the wild, providing them with a diet full of the best possible nutrition.

But dinners aren't just handed to animals on a plate; mealtimes are vital enrichment for them. Zookeepers spend hours making sure the animals have to work for their food just like they would in the wild.

The fussy sloth that won't eat mushrooms
Zookeeper Nicky Jago explains: ‘Feeding all of our animals is a mammoth task. They all have different dietary requirements which need to be met, and some individuals are fussier than others.

‘Our male sloth, for example, doesn't like mushrooms but our female sloth loves them, and our armadillos don't like food that's too crunchy for them - so we've definitely got our work cut out.'

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