Jacksonville Zoo chefs create food tailored to meet animal needs

  • The nonprofit Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is home to about 2,300 animals from tiny lizards and frogs to penguins, tigers, elephants and giraffes.
  • The zoo’s budget for animal food is $500,00 this year.
  • A team of zoo staff and volunteers ensure the animals have healthy, nutritious and good tasting meals and snacks.
  • Gorillas and jaguars are picky eaters.

Billy kept his snout to the ground, sniffing continuously and stopping frequently as he ambled in search of the tasty morsels that Theresa Wolfgang hid in a hollow tree stump and the grass of his wooded enclosure. 

The 5-year-old black bear was foraging for pre-breakfast appetizers at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens much like he would do normally do in the wild.

“He’s a very healthy eater,” said Wolfgang, a mammals keeper who cares for Billy and other animals in the zoo’s Wild Florida exhibit.

That recent morning, Wolfgang brought Billy a few handfuls of crisp lettuce stuffed inside a pet activity ball, peanut butter and grape jelly smeared on a forage board and some chopped fruit and veggies.

It was part of a nutrient-rich breakfast that typically can also feature omnivore chow, live crickets, fresh produce, frozen fish or hard-boiled eggs.

More:Coronavirus: Hey, where did all the people go? Jacksonville zoo adjusting to life with no visitors

Occasionally glancing at a three-ring binder recipe book, Sophie Berman-Woodward, an animal nutrition technician, chops vegetables and fruits to feed the primates on Nov. 16 at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.

Billy eats a lot healthier now than he did as a cub, when he would scavenge sugar-packed human junk food resulting in him being labeled a “problem bear” and being brought to the zoo to live instead of being euthanized.

Nonprofit and nationally recognized as an innovative facility, the Jacksonville Zoo is home to about 2,300 rare, exotic and native animals, saidDan Maloney, deputy zoo director for Animal Care, Conservation and Wellness.

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