Nutrition

Nutrition

Taking care of the zoo’s animals involves designing diets to meet a variety of nutritional needs. The Lincoln Park Zoo Nutrition Center provides healthful meals for animals ranging from rhinos to Madagascar hissing cockroaches. The daily menu covers shanks of beef, strawberries and everything in-between.

Diet Snapshots

Snowy egrets at the zoo eat mealworms, smelt and a specially formulated supplement to provide them all the nutrients they need

Snowy Egret
Wild snowy egrets eat fish, crabs, snakes and amphibians, scaring their prey up from shallow pools by stirring the water with their feet. Their meals at the zoo are made up of mealworms, smelt and a specially formulated supplement to provide them all the nutrients they need. An extra dose of vitamin B1 and vitamin E provides a vital boost to frozen fish! To feed one snowy egret costs around 83 cents per day—or $303 a year.

Learn more with our snowy egret fact sheet!


We feed our Egyptian fruit bats chopped up fruit and vegetables, fruit juice and a pelleted diet formulated just for frugivores.

Egyptian Fruit Bat
Despite their name, Egyptian fruit bats don’t just live in Egypt—they inhabit northern and Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Pakistan too. Like other bats, these nocturnal animals sleep during the day and forage for food at night.

Not like all bats, however, they are frugivores, meaning their diet consists of fruit, nectar and pollen. We feed our Egyptian fruit bats chopped up fruit and vegetables, fruit juice and a pelleted diet formulated just for frugivores. Feeding our colony of 17 Egyptian fruit bats costs about $14.58 per day or $5,320 per year!

Learn more with our Egyptian fruit bat fact sheet!

An Alpine goat at the Farm-in-the-Zoo

Oberhasli Goat
Although Oberhasli goats will chew and eat just about anything they can get their mouths on, we make sure they get the appropriate types and amounts of foods at the Farm-in-the-Zoo. Instead of letting them chew on our clothes all day, we feed them a nutritionally complete goat chow, grass hay and nutritious veggies. This costs about $1.50 per animal—or about $7 for the herd—per day. Feeding the goats for a full year costs about $ 2,555.
Learn more with our goat fact sheet!

Native to North America, smooth green snakes are mostly insectivorous, meaning they eat insects.

Smooth Green Snake
Native to North America, smooth green snakes are mostly insectivorous, meaning they eat insects. Lincoln Park Zoo receives a shipment of insects, so our smooth green snakes eat a diet very similar to what they would in nature. Feeding them crickets and mealworms only costs about seven cents a day, or roughly $25.55 per year.
Learn more—including how Lincoln Park Zoo is reintroducing them to northern Illinois!

Grass hay and a specialized diet make up the Bactrian camel's meals at Lincoln Park Zoo.

Bactrian Camel
The Bactrian camel is native to central Asia and known for having two large humps (or a sideways “B”) on its back. A grazing herbivore, it consumes mostly grasses and shrubs and may travel long distances to find food in the desert. We feed our Bactrian camels grass hay and a pelleted diet made for herbivores. Our female eats about $36 worth of food every day, or about $13,282 per year.
Learn more with our Bactrian camel fact sheet!

Chilean Flamingos
Native to South America, Chilean flamingos spend the majority of their time in the water, using their bills to filter out small aquatic invertebrates, diatoms and algae. At Lincoln Park Zoo we mix a diet of special flamingo chow, frozen krill and water to help stimulate natural feeding behaviors. Feeding our flock of Chilean flamingos costs about $29 per day or $10,567 per year!
Learn more with our Chilean flamingo fact sheet!

Aardvark
Native to sub-Saharan Africa, aardvarks are called “earth pigs” or “ant bears” by local people. As you may have guessed, their favorite foods are ants and termites! We feed them special insectivore chow because no one at the zoo would enjoy a “termite attack.” It costs about $1.85 a day—or $675 a year—to feed one aardvark.
Learn more with our aardvark fact sheet!

Meerkats
In the wild, meerkats eat insects, lizards, birds and fruit. Here at the zoo their diet is made of feline chow, meat and seasonal fruits and veggies. Feeding one meerkat costs about $1.50 per day—$550 per year!
Learn more with our meerkat fact sheet!

Warthog
Although warthogs look fierce, they are completely herbivorous and would rather flee than fight. Their diet consist of grass and alfalfa hay. It costs about $ 1.10 per day—$400 a year—to feed one warthog.

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Laughing Kookaburra
These “down-under” carnivorous birds are fed meat, mice, insects and fish. It costs about $18 a month to feed each kookaburra. Based on the size of these birds, that’s the equivalent of spending more than $100 a day to feed a person!
Learn more with our laughing kookaburra fact sheet!

Red Kangaroos
Our herd (mob) of red kangaroos is fed a special macropod grain that contains extra vitamin E as well as alfalfa, lettuce and greens, such as kale. (This finicky mob won’t eat certain greens, like collard greens.) Feeding our kangaroos costs about $9 a day, adding up to $3,300 a year.
Learn more with our red kangaroo fact sheet!

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Eastern Screech Owls
These small owls are fed a mouse every day, although they sometimes receive the occasional chick. Feeding an eastern screech owl costs about $6 a week.
Learn more with our eastern screech owl fact sheet!

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African Wild Dogs
These gregarious hunters are fed meat daily and also receive an occasional bone or whole (but deceased) prey item, such as a rabbit. It costs about $130 a week to feed the pack of dogs.
Learn more with our African wild dog fact sheet.

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Malayan Sun Bear
Opportunistic omnivores in the wild, Malayan sun bears are fed omnivore grain and produce at the zoo, along with occasional bones and hard-boiled eggs. Feeding one sun bear costs about $25 a week.
Learn more with our sun bear fact sheet!

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Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnakes
Eastern massasauga rattlesnakes are native to Illinois, where the species is endangered due to habitat loss. The zoo’s snakes are fed small mice each week, which matches their wild diet. Feeding each massassauga only costs $0.60 a week!
Learn more with our eastern massasauga rattlesnake fact sheet!

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Caiman Lizard
These semi-aquatic reptiles eat mostly freshwater snails in the wild. Accordingly, the zoo’s caiman lizards are fed apple snails, fish and meat. Each lizard costs $10 a week to feed, adding up to $520 a year.
Learn more with our caiman lizard fact sheet!

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Grant's gazelle
Our Grant’s gazelle is a browsing ruminant that is fed wild herbivore grain and alfalfa. She also receives the occasional produce treat. Feeding her costs almost $500 per year.
Learn more with our Grant's gazelle fact sheet!

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Sichuan Takin
These large, herbivorous mammals weigh in at 500–900 pounds and look like a combination of a goat and a cow. Their diet consists of herbivore grain and alfalfa. Each takin costs about $5 a day to feed, adding up to $1,825 annually per animal.
Learn more with our Sichuan takin fact sheet!

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Pygmy Slow Loris
Pygmy slow loris are small primates that live in the forests of Asia. They are omnivores, feeding on plants and animals. Our pair is fed primate biscuits, insects and produce at a cost of about 30 cents a day, which is roughly $2 per pound of food.
Learn more with our pygmy slow loris fact sheet!

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Oriental Fire-bellied Toad
These brightly colored amphibians are carnivores, relying on movement to identify prey.  Their diet consists of crickets treated with a vitamin supplement to enhance nutrition. Our group of fire-bellied toads eat more than 18 crickets per feeding, costs less than a dollar a week.
Learn more with our Oriental fire-bellied toad fact sheet!

Photograph by LA Dawson

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Dwarf Crocodiles
An adult dwarf crocodile's diet rotates between one rat and four chicks every other week. Juveniles get insects, mice, fish and pellets specially made for crocodiles. Their growth is monitored weekly. On average, feeding each dwarf crocodile costs $0.50 per week—less than $100 per year.
Learn more with our dwarf crocodile fact sheet!


What is HACCP?
To ensure that animals’ meals are as sanitary as possible, Lincoln Park Zoo’s nutrition technicians follow a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) system. Color-coded knives and cutting boards are used to process the different types of food. Green boards and knives located at the south end of the food-prep area are dedicated to carrots, cauliflower, and other plant products, while carnivorous cuisine is prepared at the north end of the food-prep area using red (meat) and brown (fish) cutting boards and knives. This system helps prevent cross-contamination and the illness that could follow.