Nutrition Research at RZSS
February 24, 2012 § Leave a comment
At the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, we conduct many conservation and research projects to help animals in the wild and within the zoo community.
Andy Beer, nutritionist for the RZSS, based at Edinburgh Zoo, explains a bit more about his work within the society and its importance. Watch the video Nutrition Research Technology at RZSS for a closer look at his fascinating work.
For many zoo animals and in particular the herbivores who consume mainly either fresh or conserved forage (hay or haylage), the nutritional quality of the diet they eat is important but highly variable because of the large number of sources available. Like most zoos Edinburgh and its sister collection the Highland Wildlife Park do not have the land to grow hay for the animals they house and it all has to be purchased from local growers (farmers) or suppliers. Hay from Scotland will be quite different to hay from England because of the types of grass grown, the age of the grass when it was cut for conservation, the weather conditions during haymaking and the storage conditions after baling. These factors all have an impact of the quality of the forage.
Until recently, analysing forages for nutritional composition (fibre, protein, fat and sugars) was a laborious process and required several analytical procedures to be carried out. With the development of near infra-red spectoscopy (NIRS), all these analyses and results can be obtained from the same freeze dried and ground sample and quickly!
At the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, we have the first NIRS spectrophotometer to be based in a Zoo in Europe which was supplied by FOSS UK. Not only does this mean that we can analyse grass hay and haylage and lucerne hay to be fed to our animals but also these feeds for other zoos. The main benefit is that due to having an understanding of the nutritional contribution of the forages to the diet means that we can balance the other parts of the ration more effectively to meet the animals needs.