The complexity of formulating diets for zoo animals: a matrix


  • S. Crissey

    1. Daniel & Ada L. Rice Conservation and Research Center, The Chicago Zoological Society, Brookfield Zoo, Brookfield, Illinois 60513, USA
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    • On 23 November 2002 Sue Crissey died after an extended illness. The Brookfield Zoo has established a fund in Sue's name to carry on the work that was most near and dear to her heart: training others to become zoo animal nutritionists and stimulating curiosity about the world around us. The goal of the Fund is to support residencies in nutritional studies that will improve the welfare of animals in zoos and aquariums. Donations may be made to the Susan D. Crissey Zoo Nutritionist Training Fund, Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo, 3300 Golf Road, Brookfield, IL 60513, USA.


The nutrition matrix presented here identifies a variety of factors that need to be considered when formulating diets for wild animals in captivity. The matrix is designed to be adapted so that it can be customized as required. Food consumption, nutritional requirements, health status and management constraints and opportunities are the four main categories to focus on when developing diets. Each of these categories may, in turn, be affected by other factors. (1) Food consumption is affected by the diet offered, client (zoo animal manager, keeper or veterinarian) wishes and animal preferences. (2) Nutritional requirements are defined by known species requirements and National Research Council recommendations, morphology and feeding ecology. Nutritional requirements may also be influenced by season, life-stage, activity, health status, stress and body temperature. (3) Health status can be affected by nutritional deficiencies or toxicities in the diet offered. Certain health conditions may require specific dietary input. (4) Animal-management protocols, such as housing, breeding opportunities and environment, are affected by other animals, food storage and preparation capacity, and feeding regime, which, in turn, can be affected by training, exercise and enrichment.