In the summer of 2006, new analytical equipment began to arrive in the brand new nutrition lab of the Bill and Berniece Grewcock Center for Conservation and Research. The nutrition lab was developed with the capacity to conduct meaningful research with any species residing at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo from fish to primates. In addition, collaborative efforts with other zoos, feed companies, and universities are allowing Omaha's Zoo to be one of the leaders in exotic animal nutrition research.
Little is known about the nutrient requirements of most exotic species. Diets are developed and formulated based on known requirements established for domestic species including cats, dogs, horses, cattle, swine and poultry.
Improvements in animals nutritional status can improve reproduction and longevity of endangered species in captive and wild populations. In addition, proper nutrition and advances in nutrition research provide us with tools to more effectively manage their habitat in the wild, thereby improving survival.
The nutrition lab consists of state of the art analytical equipment that measure specific nutrients including water, protein, fat, fatty acids and dietary fibers. Some of the specialized laboratory equipment includes a gas chromatograph for fatty acid analysis, a LECO FP528 protein analyzer, a fat extraction unit and a bomb calorimeter. The nutrition lab specializes in dietary fiber analyses, including total, soluble and insoluble dietary fiber analyses.
The nutrition lab monitors the nutritional quality of Zoo animal diets on a regular basis and makes necessary changes to diets as needed based on results from analytical procedures. In addition, many nutrition experiments are conducted in the lab mainly focus on how digestible formulated diets are for any given species. The lab concentrates on digestibility experiments that focus on energy, fat, fatty acids, minerals and protein.