From this list posted in the kitchen at the zoo, you’ll notice a lot of “sushi” on the “menu.” Such delicacies as herring, mackerel, smelt, squid, shrimp, krill, and capelin are purchased by the ton! That’s because many of the residents thrive on raw fish. And at the St. Louis Zoo, they’re a lot of mouths to feed.
It’s Own Grub Hub
But animal nutrition is more than tossing a few fish to the animals each day. Along with my friends, Sally and Bev, I recently toured the Orthwein Animal Nutrition Center, a state-of-the-art facility in Forest Park. We saw first-hand what goes into keeping the birds and animals fit and happy.
Our guide, and the director of the center, Dr. Debra Schmidt, sees that the zoo’s thousands of inhabitants get healthy meals with the proper balance of protein, vitamins, minerals, fat, fiber and carbs. Special diets are accommodated as well. Primates get fresh leaves (including bark) from trees acquired from Ameren, when the company clears branches for access to power lines.
Dr. Schmidt’s over-sized, stainless steel kitchen with its four food prep stations and indoor food silos point up the magnitude of her daily task. Imagine having a walk-in freezer half the size of a basketball court!
Even the loading dock has been updated to accommodate the frequent deliveries of large trucks. Just to be on the safe side, the Center maintains a back up generator and a three months supply of food.
Penguins Strut Their Stuff
A few of the Magellanic penguins (originally from Argentina) came out to visit with us. Their name comes from having been first spotted by Magellan in 1530.
Bare Feet in the Snow!
Outdoors we caught a glimpse of the Grizzly bears. Later when I posted these photos, I wondered why the pair were playing in the snow instead of hibernating? I picked up my phone and asked Siri. She said that bears in captivity with a constant food supply, don’t need to hibernate during the winter, though some become a bit more sluggish and eat less.
There were few people in the park on the cold day that we were there and those strolling about with kids were bundled up. Director of Development, Jeff Huntington, pointed out that on a summer day, visitors can soar to 30,000, putting stress on all their systems.
The St. Louis Zoo is, indeed, a world-class attraction. We can all be proud of the dedicated staff and supporters who work to keep it a leader in animal management, research, conservation and education.
- The zoo has more than 16,000 animals from 700 species.
- Animals consume 17,000 lbs. of meat and fish each month.
- The park spans 90 acres in Forest Park.
- Three million people visit the zoo each year, making it one of the top attended in the country.
- The zoo is open year around, except Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
- Admission is free, but there are fees for some attractions.
- Behind-the-Scene Tours are available, (such as we took), where you can interact with some of the animals.