2.4 Feeding

Animal feeding is an important husbandry for both zookeepers and animals. Providing the correct type and amount of feed is an essential part of meeting animal welfare standards under the European Zoos Directive (EC Directive 199/22/EC).  Provision of food and water is one of the designated five freedoms as set out by the farm Animal Welfare Council and also incorporated into the Secretary of States Standards for Modern Zoo Practice within the UK.

Both food and water are basic needs. The method of food presentation, the frequency of feeds and the nutritional balance must be taken into account. Food should be presented in a manner and frequency commensurate with the natural behaviour of the species, as well as its nutritional requirements, which may vary according to season. Zookeepers will have skills and knowledge in feed recognition, preparation and presentation so that animals in their care are fed in line with best practice and at appropriate time intervals and frequencies.

  • Feed Recognition: zookeepers can identify and describe a range of feeds commonly used in zoos.
  • Feed Preparation: zookeepers are able to demonstrate safe and effective feed preparation.
  • Feed Presentation: zookeepers can describe and demonstrate how feed is given to animals and how it can affect selection.
  • Feed Utilisation: zookeepers are able to monitor how the diet in captivity is accepted by animals and the impact diet has on faecal consistency.
  • Waste Food Disposal: zookeepers are able to demonstrate effective methods of waste feed disposal in a sustainable way.
Zookeepers working at Competent level can: Zookeepers working at Proficient level can: Zookeepers working at Expert level can:
2.4.1 Feed Recognition Identify feeding items of suitable quality from different groups on a diet sheet and for each item list the animals that they are suitable for feeding to Describe what the feeding quality and general composition of nutrients of a range of feeds is and discuss the impact of feeding each feed to a nominated species Recommend feedstuff substitutions and alternatives where problems of supply occur so that the overall balance and nutrient supply of the diet is unaffected
2.4.2 Feed Preparation Select and weigh appropriate dietary ingredients to make a daily diet for a nominated species under supervision and according to recognised safety procedures and approved but simple diet sheets Prepare daily diets from more complex diet sheets with precision in accordance with safety procedures and describe how variation in diets can occur due to seasonality and availability and how this can be accommodated Discuss how and why diets can be modified to meet an animal’s needs during different life stages and seasonal changes (in consultation with Nutritionists/Advisors as required)
2.4.3 Feed Presentation Routinely deliver and mix feed items which meet the biological needs of the species to enclosures and transfer diets to devices or locations from which they can be eaten, ensuring an expected level of hygiene and cleanliness
Routinely provide access to potable water in a species-appropriate presentation
Describe the feeding process thoroughly (e.g. chopping, sprouting) and the impact this has on foraging time and feed selection and create an enrichment plan
Present feed in a manner which presents species-specific natural behaviours, also taking into account individual needs (e.g. geriatric, disabled, etc.)
Supervise and evaluate the feeding process and
Create enrichment devices and food presentation strategies for nominated species, to promote natural behaviours
2.4.4 Feed Utilisation Report on how much of the diet is eaten on a daily basis and comment on the faecal consistency the diet produces Propose modifications to the daily diet to minimise the amount of uneaten food and contingent wastage and use a scoring chart to categorise faecal consistency Record and plan feed acquisition for nominated species in consultation with other zoo professionals to ensure acceptable faecal consistency is achieved
2.4.5 Waste Food Disposal Remove uneaten feed and dispose of it appropriately and sustainably under supervision Identify potential for re-use or recycling of uneaten feed in accordance with Zoo standard operating procedures Monitor trends in uneaten and waste food and discuss strategies to minimise excessive waste with colleagues


  • Diet sheets
  • EAZA Best Practice guidelines – EAZA
  • The use of plants in zoos and aquaria – ZooPlants.Net

Paths to fulfilment

Last updated: 31/01/2018