In last week’s Wildlife Wednesdays post, you heard from Matt Hohne that exercise plays an important role in keeping the animals in our care physically and mentally fit. Another important ingredient in the recipe is eating right — something that’s top of mind for many of us humans as we try to get the new year off to a good start.
For my first Disney Parks Blog post, I’d like to tell you a little bit about our Animal Nutrition Center. As Animal Health Director for Disney’s Animal Programs, I have the privilege of leading our Animal Nutrition Center team as well as our veterinary team.
Located backstage at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the Animal Nutrition Center creates specialized diets for more than 3,000 mammals, birds, reptiles and fishes at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and The Seas with Nemo & Friends. This adds up to more than four-and-half tons of food per day, not counting the natural vegetation that is eaten by some of our animals.
The animals in our care include insect eaters (insectivores), plant eaters (herbivores), meat eaters (carnivores) and those that eat both (omnivores). As a result, the nutrition center team prepares over 1,000 different diets daily. From the tiny newly hatched chicks that need to be hand raised to elephants weighing many thousands of pounds, each animal receives a diet specially formulated by our expert team to ensure optimal nutrition. And many food items are used as enrichment, spread throughout the animals’ habitats to encourage them to explore and exhibit natural behaviors.
The fruits and vegetables used at our nutrition center are the same high-quality foods served to guests in Disney restaurants. When guests visit the nutrition center on the Backstage Safari tour, they always comment on how fresh and tasty the apples, carrots, melons, corn and other fruits and vegetables look. Some guests might be tempted to stop for a snack. Of course, when it comes to the mealworms and crickets that are part of some of our animals’ diets, our guests happily agree that the food should go to the animals as intended.
On your next visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, plan to visit the Animal Nutrition Center on the Backstage Safari tour or visit with an Animal Nutrition Center cast member at our window in Conservation Station. Here’s to good eating!