Copenhagen Zoo animals on diet

Pia Marsh
June 16th, 2015

This article is more than 8 years old.

Zookeepers resort to quirky tactics to stop zoo animals becoming obese … again

Elephants can spend up to 90 percent of their time searching for food, which once found, they never forget (photo: Tambako)

Scattering cinnamon in the hay, and hiding carrots in the trees.

An obesity epidemic has hit Copenhagen Zoo, and zookeepers have resorted to quirky tactics in an effort to stop animals becoming overweight in the lead-up to the summer season.

“We have had many obese animals. Obese monkeys and elephants and fat cows. Basically, all the animals except the birds,” zookeeper Tine Mangart Søland told Metroxpress.

Lazier than ever
According to Søland, who is responsible for the distribution and ordering of food for animals at Copenhagen Zoo, one of the primary issues the zoo animals face is inactivity.

Whilst lazy animals might prove as great entertainment for the audience, inactivity also contributes to obesity and a number of other life-threatening diseases, such as diabetes.

The issue of obesity is further hindered by the fact that the animals eat all day long.

“Some animals just want to eat constantly, and therefore they must be fed several times a day,” Søland continued.

“We have an otter that we feed eight times per day. His fast metabolism makes him extremely hungry.”

Similarly, elephants will happily spend 90 percent of their day searching for food – a real challenge for zookeepers.

“We must constantly find new activities to get the animals to move, so they can use their natural instincts in a way that does not make them overweight,” Katrine Friholm, a biologist at Copenhagen Zoo, told Metroxpress.

Drastic times call for drastic measures
Several times, the zoo has been forced to use devious tricks to keep the animals active.

This includes hiding the animal’s food across their enclosure, thereby encouraging the animals to go out and search for their meal whilst also getting some exercise.

Some of the zoo’s different initiatives include burying the elephants’ food deep underground, or throwing cinnamon on the elephants’ hay.

Meanwhile, in the lion enclosure, food is placed up in the trees so that the lions are forced to climb in order to reach their food.



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