Diet Tips from the Zoo
As most of the human species has become domesticated over the millennia, we may be able to glean some health tips from species more recently domesticated.
Like how to lose weight.
At Illinois's Wildlife Prairie Park, TR the black bear was flabby and easily fatigued. Black bears are meant to be active in their pursuit of food and black bear chores. But having room service meals every day had gotten him to the point that even the slimming powers of black could not hide his corpulence.
When he tipped the scales at 756 pounds that was way too much bear. But his reducing options were more limited than ours. Diet pills were out. No bariatric surgery options. So yes, TR was relegated to that time-honored, boring, difficult-to-stick-to regimen we all know -- fewer sweets, more veggies and more movement.
Evidently what works for people also works for zoo animals, too, because the big fella has lost about one-fifth of his body weight (down to a slim 600) and is going about his day with a new spring in his step.
Benny the bobcat has a similar tale. After ballooning to a decidedly un-bobcat 41 pounds, he has dropped 25% of that weight.
The ready food and limited exercise opportunities have made obesity in zoo animals as widespread a problem as it is for Western society humans.
Now some wildlife facilities are hiding smaller meals around the animals’ enclosures to encourage foraging. Benny’s snacks were sometimes hidden inside boxes.
That’s one aspect of this program that probably is not transferrable to human society.