At the Zoo, our staff in the Orthwein Animal Nutrition Center work hard to make sure the animals eat well. It takes as many as 24 man hours per day to prepare the bulk foods and special diets needed throughout the Saint Louis Zoo. We use large food choppers to help prepare food quickly and efficiently. All food is weighed and recorded before it's delivered to the animal buildings, and inventory is tracked weekly.
The Nutrition Center keepers start their day at 5:30 a.m. in order to have all the food delivered by the time the animal keepers arrive to begin their daily routine. Rain or shine, snow or sleet, the food must be delivered 365 days a year. Our three Nutrition Center keepers, zoological manager and nutritionists are dedicated to doing their part to keep all of the animals at the Zoo healthy and fit!
The Zoo's nutritionist first determines the nutritional needs of each animal. The nutritionist determines how much protein, fat, fiber, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals each animal needs, and which foods best provide these nutrients. She works closely with curators, keepers and veterinarians to make sure our animals are eating healthy.
The Nutrition Center keepers then take those recommendations and ensure that the proper items are packaged and delivered to the animal keepers who in turn prepare meals for individual animals. Each morning, bear keepers receive 15 pounds of fresh food, the Bird House gets 40 pounds of fruit and vegetables, and the Herpetarium is sent 30 pounds of reptile salad - just to name a few!
Orthwein Animal Nutrition Center
The new William R. Orthwein, Jr. & Laura Rand Orthwein Animal Nutrition Center provides over 7,500 square feet for food preparation, a giant walk-in cooler, shelves for dry storage, plus a loading dock for large deliveries - like 75 tons of capelin! A transparent glass wall and pathway provide visitors to the Zoo the chance to observe the Animal Nutrition Department staff performing their work in the kitchen.
In addition to food storage and preparation, this new building also includes a laboratory and library for further nutritional studies. Staff are able to analyze and research the most appropriate diet for each species and continue to participate and spearhead in studies that further the science of nutrition.
The Orthwein Nutrition Center's sleek, modern design incorporates many green design features making it one of only a handful of buildings in the St. Louis area to receive the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver certification. Energy efficient and environmentally friendly features, including a green roof composed of a mixture of colorful sedum (succulent all-weather plant) species and grasses, optimized heating and cooling systems, plus the extensive use of natural light and recycled materials, will ensure compliancy with the LEED rating systems.
Outside, the building is surrounded by gardens including a medicinal plant garden with plants and herbs with pharmaceutical uses, the plant science gardens and a topiary garden with a series of sculpted animal-themed frames featuring flowing vines.
The new building is located on the River's Edge path. Stop by to peer in the large windows and see all that it takes to keep our 18,000 animals well fed!