Feeding Wild Animals: Research, Insects, Mice Are Major Players In Finding High Protein Food

it isn’t much of a secret that wild animals kept in zoo, veterinary or sanctuary settings need quite a lot of food. Much of what they need has to be high protein and the need forces animal rescue groups to fundraise constantly.

Tigers and lions, for example, are estimated to eat 20 to 25 pounds of meat per day. This is an estimate because predators go long stretches between meals. Wolves may consume a prey animal weighing several hundred pounds and then go days without eating.

So scientists and other researchers are looking for ways to provide quality low cost protein to wild and domestic animals.

Constant research into the ins and outs of wild animal nutrition is a must.

The American Association of Zoo Veterinarians (AAZV) conducts research and is partnering with Mazuri for research into feeding exotic animals. Mazuri is a specialized animal feed producer. The company feeds all sorts of creatures from koi to exotic mammals. The company will donate to the AAZV to support research into animal nutrition and will fund grants later this year. Researchers will examine many aspects of exotic animal nutrition.

The French based food company Innovafeed has announced it will open a huge insect plant near Decatur Illinois on a 25 acre parcel. The company plans to use a fly, hermetia Illucens, as its food base and intends to generate 60 million pounds of insect based food for animals and for humans. The company says its product will eventually feed 10 million people. Hermetia Illucens is actually a valuable fly to have around.

macro photo of cricket on a leaf
At nearly 60 percent protein crickets may be food for wild animals and humans soon. Photo by agustin flores on Pexels.com

Known as the black soldier fly it out competes houseflies. That is a big deal as reduced numbers of houseflies results in reduced disease. The black soldier fly, unlike many other flies, is not a significant disease carrier. In addition to its use in feed it can clean wounds. It is also used to date the time of death of cadavers.

Black Soldier Fly. Photo Australian Broadcasting System. These flies are a potential food source for livestock and people and are high protein.

It may seem far-fetched to think of feeding tigers and lions on flies or crickets but insects are incredibly high in protein. Cricket flour weighs in at 58% protein, double the protein in a serving of steak and several times the amount in eggs. Black soldier fly larvae are about 50 percent protein. Cats and dogs will eat insect, usually as a snack. But insects are a portion of some predators diet. The animal feed industry is expert at creating kibbles. The kibbles are nutritionally complete but lack flavor. Therefore companies work hard to create “flavorants” attractive to the animal. It is not impossible that at least some of the food fed to wild animals in zoos and shelters will be insect based relatively soon.

close up photo of a brown rat
Many people consider mice cute. They are also very destructive. Canned mouse is now coming on the menu for cats thanks to Mouser pet food. Photo by DSD on Pexels.com

Perhaps it will be better all around if Tony the Tiger puts down his bowl of sugary cereal for a heaping serving of insect based food.

tiger in lake water
Crickets! I told you I’d eat YOU if you tried to feed me crickets! But hey, they’re pretty good! Photo by Jeffry Surianto on Pexels.com

Meanwhile, a former pet store owner has launched Mouser a premium domestic cat food with mouse meat in it. The cans also contain other meats, in part because mouse meat is more expensive than chicken or other meats usually fed to cats. That may be in part because the supply of mice is somewhat constrained. Mouser mice come from producers who raise them for feeding to pet snakes or to young rescue owls in rehab. Since mice are not raised specifically for the cat food industry the price may still be high. It may be a question of economies of scale. There are also regulatory hurdles to leap. One thing seems clear, cats like the taste of mice. It is unlikely tigers or leopards will be eating Mouser anytime soon but a mouse product may be what the vet ordered for bobcats and other small wildcats in zoos, shelters and rescues.

The AAZV will host its annual conference soon. Wild animal and zoo veterinarians will meet to discuss issues critical to the lives of animals in zoo and shelters. Last year’s conference was discussed here.

Published by ursusrising

long time writer and editor living in Los Angeles

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