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What Goes Into Serving Breakfast At Smithsonian's National Zoo

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Residents of the National Zoo's Great Ape House have a particular predisposition towards honey.
Armando Trull
Residents of the National Zoo's Great Ape House have a particular predisposition towards honey.

Every morning, Christy Stout and two other colleagues deliver breakfast to nearly 2,000 animals at Smithsonian's National Zoo.

Crystal, the gray wolf who's actually white, is about to eat breakfast.

"Today they got rabbits, they'll also get knucklebones, and dog food," Stout says. "They are just as they would hunt them except they are not alive. That way they get the fiber from the fur as well as the calcium from the bones."

All the food is prepped at the commissary, a huge warehouse with hundreds of bins. Everything from lettuce, to crickets to live rats are on the menu. Two nutritionists on staff keep track of the animals' dietary needs.

The natural food diet is augmented with dry pellets that look like dog food. Stout says the pellets are colored like fruit to make them visually appealing to the animals. Some food is collected from Rock Creek Park.

"This is a pile of rotting logs, our anteaters and some of our bears would actually love to break those logs apart and get some of the yummy goodies inside," Stout says.

Not all of the food is purely for subsistence. At the Great Ape House, they drop off ketchup, mustard and honey, which serve a secondary purpose.

"Honey is one of their favorite things," says biologist Lorrie Thompson. "We save honey for really good treats for training or injections. That's their reward."

As they drop off 150 pounds of squid and assorted fish for the seals, Stout says that neither sequestration, snowmaggeddon nor Thanksgiving can stop these food runs, because the animals can't pick up their mobile and order pizza.


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