The nutrition program at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium consists of a nutrition laboratory and a centralized diet kitchen. Both components work hand in hand to ensure the nutritional adequacy and safety of all animal diets at the Zoo.
The nutrition laboratory continually monitors and evaluates animal diets for various nutrients. This ensures optimal health and longevity of our zoo animals. Diet formulation for exotic animals can be complicated. Little is known about the nutrient requirements of most exotic species. Diets are developed and formulated based on a species’ known natural history and diet in the wild, along with specifics regarding digestive anatomy and physiology. This information is then extrapolated with known requirements established for domestic species including cats, dogs, horses, cattle, swine and poultry. As a result of these complexities and unknowns, substantial scientific inquiry is needed to further promote and develop optimal zoo animal diets. The nutrition laboratory here at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is considered a leader in comparative nutrition research throughout AZA institutions and contributes to the knowledge base in this extremely important area of animal management.
While the nutrition laboratory evaluates the nutritional adequacy of diets, a dedicated full time staff and volunteers are necessary to produce the Zoo’s animal diets on a daily basis. The animals must be fed 365 days a year and the incredible staff of the diet kitchen are responsible for ordering and managing all of the ingredients for animal diets. Our centralized diet kitchen manages all types of feed ingredients including dry forages such as alfalfa hay, fresh produce, fresh meat, custom commercial products, dietary supplements and whole prey ingredients such as fish and rodents for carnivores. These ingredients are carefully managed, weighed and prepared for individual animal diets daily.