Jean-Michel Hatt Dr. MSc1
1 Division of Zoo Animals and Exotic Pets, Veterinary Faculty, University of Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse 260, 8057 Zurich, Switzerland

The diet of a zoo animal is rarely the same as the specie s would eat in its natural habitat. Generally a substitute diet has to be designed. Presently in most cases these diets are based on tradition. On these diets many animals survive, and in many cases may even reproduce. However, diet related diseases still occur frequently in zoo animals. The improvement of substitutional diets for better health and longevity depends on a more detailed knowledge of the requirements of the species. Such knowledge may be gained by „trial and error“-studies or through systematic scientific studies on the digestive strategies and physiology of the species. The increasing importance for research on the nutrition of zoo animals is supported by the increasing involvement of zoos in conservation issues. The limits of extrapolation of nutrient requirements derived from domestic animals, for the design of zoo animal diets, are becoming more and more obvious. However, studies with zoo animals are often perceived is not being "good science". One reason for this is the fact that trained scientists are rare to be employed by zoos. Another reason is that the study subjects are not laboratory animals. The number of study animals is generally small, they have a high variability and the environment is difficult to control. Therefore, a major problem is a low degree of standardisation and a high degree of variability. This paper describes possibilities for the design of nutrition research. Practical examples, with special emphasis on ruminants, are given. The following aspects of research are discussed in relation to nutrition studies: Formulating a problem, developing a research design, setting out alternative hypotheses, appropriate sampling and data collection techniques, and data analysis. As a conclusion there is an encouragement for rigorously designed scientific projects, with a multidisciplinary approach, that have the involvement of universities. Finally, the need to publish of results of nutrition studies in scientific journals is emphasised.


Helena Marquès1 and Michael T. Maslanka, M.S.2
1 Barcelona Zoo, Barcelona, Spain, 2 Memphis Zoological Society, Memphis, Tennessee, USA

Captive exotic animal management has always included nutrition, but in the last 20 years, several zoos have built nutrition services and developed those that already existed. This paper will briefly discuss some of the issues involved in building a nutrition services and will include information from surveys of the nutritionists currently working in zoos in Europe and North America and their beginnings. Although zoo nutrition is a relatively new field, its importance is growing quickly among the zoo’s community. Nutrition represents one of the many inter-related parts that determine the well being of an animal. If any of the parts fail, animal health may be compromised, and, with it, our ability to conserve endangered species and educate the public. When starting to work on nutrition at a zoo, a foundation and structure must be created first, upon which to build a nutrition service. That foundation can begin by demonstrating the need for that service. Institution-wide support of a nutrition service is imperative to its success. The advantages of a nutrition service materialize over the long term, as nutrition problems are not always detected in a timely fashion. Thus, the evaluation of the benefits of a nutrition service may be based on decreased veterinary costs and/or decreased incidence of health problems. Therefore, the best initial approach may be to begin concentrating on the financial aspects. Zoos are not always ready to support a nutritionist, and therefore it is important to get external support. However, there are a few prerequisites to develop a nutrition service, and the nutritionist can begin working part time on nutrition issues while filling another role at the zoo. This is a good start and may allow the person to develop good working relationships with the curatorial and keeper staff and become familiar with the institution’s policies, prior to working intensively with nutrition. Every institution is different, but there may be some common problems that arise. The staff understanding of the importance of adequate nutrition for the animals is crucial for the success of the nutrition service. If the basic skills are lacking, it is worthless to design great diets because they will not be utilized. It is more important to concentrate on the basic first steps and develop a framework upon which to build later. Building a successful nutrition service takes a period of years, even decades. If the foundation is firm and development takes place in a stepwise fashion, an effective nutrition service can be developed and flourish.


Wendy S. Graffam PhD1 and Ellen S. Dierenfeld PhD1
1 Department of Nutrition, Wildlife Conservation Society, Bronx, NY 10460-1099, USA

ZootritionÓ software is designed as relational databases, which will assist in recording and evaluating diets for zoo species in standardized, intuitive formats. This program is designed to incorporate user feedback from a workshop held at the Nutrition Advisory Group meeting in Toronto, Canada (1995). Input at that time indicated a need for a comprehensive system that is user-friendly; able to calculate chemical composition of diets, with appropriate units of measurement; includes a broad nutrient database of feedstuffs (centralized for updating and maintaining accuracy); has the ability to print diet cards and relevant reports; and can link individual animal reproductive and medical information with diet records. ZootritionÓ has been tested initially by several zoos in the United States and Europe for functionality and usability. Animal information can be entered into ZootritionÓ by the user, and individual diets can be linked to individuals, enclosures, or other relevant groupings. Animal-level linkages are designed to eventually upload data directly from existing records-keeping systems such is the International Species Information System (ISIS)Ó, ARKSÓ, and MedARKSÓ. Other functions of this software include (but are not limited to): databases with maximal record storage capacity for chemical composition of feeds, diets and species requirements; global and local feedstuff directories that allow for data updates without overwriting the user’s locally entered feedstuffs; flexible measurement units; customizable nutrient screens; printout options on most screens; and the ability to save a diet as a feedstuff (“in-house mix”) with the original ingredients intact. Feeding tools allow the user to summarize diets into groups from which specialized reports total ingredient amounts for all diets in the group, along with costs, for designated time periods, to provide readily-available ordering, delivery, and economic summaries. The system requirements for ZootritionÓ are: WindowsÒ 95 operating environment or better, at least a 486 processor, VGA or better monitor, 16 MB of RAM, and at least 15 MB of available hard-disk space.


J.D. Kuiper Dr.1
1 PREX/Dep.Lab. Animal Science, Veterinary Faculty Utrecht, The Netherlands

The Internet is becoming a very important information source. Different methods of obtaining zoo animal nutrition information will be explained:

1 Search engines.
A lot of (free) information can be found using search engines. It is estimated that there are currently approx. 2,100 different search engines. This presentation will provide an explanation of how search engines work, how they get their information and how to use them to access specific zoo animal nutrition literature.

2 Alternative search strategies.
Other free sources of information are available on the Internet. For example: scientific library catalogues and other freely accessible databases.

3 News groups and discussion groups.
Demonstrations explaining where to find news and discussion groups specific to zoo animal nutrition will be given.

4 Stand-alone databases.
The Internet is not the only digital information source. Stand-alone databases are sometimes easier and faster to use.

The pro and contra of all four categories will be discussed. A list with names of relevant sites and databases will be distributed to the participants.