Feeding time at Edinburgh zoo costs £1,400 a day

Edinburgh Zoo's annual food bill tops half a million pounds. Picture: Getty
Edinburgh Zoo's annual food bill tops half a million pounds. Picture: Getty
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EDINBURGH Zoo’s wide variety of animals go through more than half a million pounds worth of food every year, figures have shown.

The zoo’s family of 19 chimpanzees could certainly show the nation a thing or two when it comes to healthy eating – having porridge, probiotic yoghurt for breakfast and never missing their five a day. Their idea of a treat is plain popcorn, nutrient-packed peanut butter, or their all-time favourite bananas.

No expense is spared to make sure the zoo’s 1,000 animals are fed the ultimate diet, but good food comes at a price, with the zoo’s annual food bill totalling a whopping £517,000.

The chimps munch their way through over 250 bananas a week, supplied free by Fyffes, but their weekly food bill still tops £900. Each chimp’s fruit and veg-packed shopping basket
rings in at £47.91 – double the cost of feeding one of the zoo’s two Sumatran tigers a fresh meat-only diet.

Sophie Pearson, 32, team leader of the zoo’s chimpanzee quarters, Budongo House, said: “They get popcorn once a week; it’s a good treat because it’s extremely low in calories and fat.

“Chimpanzees do love bananas, but we don’t give them too many, because it’s not their natural diet and they are high in calories, so they are limited to two bananas a day. They also love sweet potatoes, melon and apples. They don’t really like broccoli, but it’s an important part of their diet, so we give it to them with a little drizzle of oil on it.”

The zoo’s annual bill for fruit and veg alone is £144,000, with £90,540 spent on fish and £55,152 on meat. Pandas Sweetie and Sunshine spend 40 per cent of the day eating and cost £70,000 a year to feed, with most of their bamboo imported from the Netherlands.

Food for koalas Yabbra and Goonaroo costs £33,600 a year, including £25,000 for Eucalyptus, which is grown in Cornwall and delivered twice every week.

The 29 gentoo penguins eat 140kg of blue whiting fish a week, while the zoo’s two sun bears, Somnang and Rotana, eat fruit, veg, dog biscuits, boiled rice and boiled eggs – and share one jar of honey a week. Their main protein intake in the wild would come from insects.

Michael Livingstone, 24, one of the zoo’s carnivore keepers, said: “We give our Sumatran tigers, Tibor and Baginda, a variety of meat – horse meat, goat and sometimes deer in the culling season. They come from Sumatra where they would eat mainly deer from the forest.” The main protein intake in the wild for the zoo’s sun bears, Somnang and Rotana, would come from insects.Michael said: “We give them insects as a treat.” He explained that because of the large amount of insects that would be needed to feed them, the zoo gives the bears boiled eggs to boost their protein levels.

He added: “They are fed three or four times a day. First thing in the morning they get boiled rice and boiled eggs, they are split up so that they don’t eat each other’s food. They get a mix of fruit and veg, but honey is their favourite.

“These guys are the original honey bears, they will go mad for honey, they get it as a treat.”

Darren, 42, who has worked at the zoo since he was 16,said, even in a recession, no expense is spared to make sure each of the zoo’s residents gets the perfect balanced diet.

If the costs ever got too high Darren said they would look at finding a new home for an animal, rather than cutting back its food.