Half-million dollar meals: How the Philadelphia Zoo feeds its animals

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (WPVI) -- "It's not an option to feed animals poorly in a captive situation," said Barb Toddes. "So, in spite of the pandemic, we will do everything we can to ensure that that's not something that we have to cut."

Toddes, the Nutrition Director at the Philadelphia Zoo, feeds over 500 species of animals every day. Each has its own individualized dietary needs that are true to its wild counterparts.

Their 35-years-long nutrition commitment comes with a cost.

The carnivores alone cost the zoo $120,000 annually, contributing to a roughly $500,000 bill per year.

However, creativity always comes into play. The zoo partners with PECO to collect browse, or leaves, from power lines that would otherwise be thrown away. Once inspected, it is fed to animals like giraffes.

"You cannot separate nutrition from animal welfare, animal health," said Toddes. "Those things are all intertwined."

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