What’s for Dinner?

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Zoo InternQuest is a seven-week career exploration program for San Diego County high school juniors and seniors. Students have the opportunity to meet professionals working for the San Diego Zoo, Safari Park, and Institute for Conservation Research, learn about their jobs, and then blog about their experience online. Follow their adventures here!

The Safari Park and San Diego Zoo are two of only fifteen institutions in America that have animal nutritionists. The Zoo’s Associate Nutritionist, Jenifer Parsons has many responsibilities, including setting the diet of each animal in the Zoo, managing those with dietary problems (such as diabetes, kidney diseases, etc.), and making sure each animal gets the nutrition they need.

The famous color of a flamingo’s feather comes from a pigment found in the shrimp they eat. At the Zoo, animal nutritionists add this pigment to the flamingos’ food to help them maintain their unique coloring.

Jama, a Northern Chinese Leopard, used to be a healthy young leopard, but became overweight and contracted kidney disease as he aged. To lower his weight, the nutritionists at the Zoo changed his diet, reducing his calorie intake by feeding him less meat and more brown rice. Luckily, Jama does not mind brown rice, and has accepted his adjusted diet.

Before entering the Forage Warehouse, the storage and preparation area of the meats and produce at the Zoo, intern Madison follows protocol by stepping in a foot rinse formula of bleach water. What is the reason for this safety procedure? Shoes have the potential to track in germs. The Forage Warehouse contains food for thousands of animals in the Zoo, it is a good idea to make sure any such germs are eliminated before entry.

The Forage Warehouse contains four walk-in refrigerators: the produce refrigerator, the meat refrigerator, the meat freezer, and the fish freezer. The produce refrigerator contains fruits and vegetables for the animals that are so fresh and clean, even humans could eat it.

The meat freezer is usually kept at around negative ten degrees Fahrenheit. This is where meat is put when it needs to be stored. From here, the meat will go to a refrigerator where it can thaw, safe from bacterial growth.

The grain storage unit is where the Zoo stores the pellets and biscuits that are fed to animals as sources of fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. These pellets and biscuits are useful because they can be easily measured and distributed to meet the nutritional needs of the animals.

All hay bought by the Zoo is grown locally, reducing the energy needed for transport. This reduces the Zoo’s carbon footprint! Buying local food also means that, in the case of a disaster, resources are not far away.

Keira, Photo Team
Fall 2012, week four