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Fort Wayne Children's Zoo monitors closely what animals eat

When it's time for food, rainbow lorikeets munch on mealworms. (Courtesy photo)
When it's time for food, rainbow lorikeets munch on mealworms. (Courtesy photo)
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Thursday, May 30, 2013 12:06 pm
May 30, 2013Do you ever wonder what's in your food? At the zoo, we need to know exactly what's in the animals' food. In fact, we analyze everything that our animals eat — including mealworms.

Mealworms are eaten by many animals, including mongooses, bat-eared foxes and Australian birds. It's not the mealworms themselves, but what the mealworms have eaten that determines their nutritional value.

"What the mealworms eat has a direct effect on animals that consume the mealworms," says Brooke Stowell,commissary supervisor.

Mealworms are a good source of protein, and are kept alive in the commissary until they are fed to animals. But mealworms don't come with a nutrition label, so Stowell is varying the mealworms' diet and testing their nutritional value.

"We are testing the mealworms because we want them to be as nutritious as possible," says Stowell.

Do the animals notice the difference?

“Probably not,” says Stowell. “They just enjoy eating the mealworms!”

Testing mealworms may seem like an extreme measure, but it’s all part of our commitment to excellent animal health. Says Stowell, “We do this so our animals eat the very best food that will promote the very best health.”

Read about animal diets on our Animal Information Pages at http://kidszoo.org/our-animals/animal-index.Three high school seniors pursuing animal-related careers were each awarded Lawrence A. Ackerman Scholarships from the Fort Wayne Zoological Society. They are:

Alyssa Hunter of Bluffton High School, attending Purdue University

Kelly Piepenbrink of Homestead High School, attending Huntington University

Alyssa Richter of Northfield High School in Wabash, attending Ohio Wesleyan University

The Scholarship was established in 1992 to honor Dr. Larry Ackerman, who was known for his professionalism, compassion and generosity during his 25 years as the zoo's veterinarian.

To learn how to apply for or donate to the Ackerman scholarships, go to http://kidszoo.org/support-the-zoo/volunteering/career-exploration.

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