Conservation Spotlight

The American Zoo and Aquarium Association Nutrition Advisory Group: An Overview

Susan D. Crissey
Chicago Zoological Society, Brookfield Zoo, 3300 Golf Road, Brookfield, IL 60513;


To help guarantee that animal populations can be successfully maintained in captivity, animals must consume appropriate diets that meet their nutritional requirements. To accomplish population longevity and meet propagation goals, zoos must offer diets based on current scientific information. Additionally, nutrition work with captive endangered species or model species contributes to knowledge about the biology of the species that can be applied to the in-situ conservation of that species or ecosystem. Zoo nutritionists play an important role in an integrated approach to animal husbandry and management, data collection and information exchange. While there are less than 15 formal zoo nutrition programs, the need for organization is apparent. With this in mind, the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) Nutrition Advisory Group (NAG) was formed in 1994 with the charge of promoting the welfare of animals housed in AZA-accredited institutions by incorporating the science of nutrition into their husbandry. NAG began with 9 members and has grown to over 55. As part of the group's charge, several issues were identified as top priorities. These include training; collection and dissemination of physiological data, including body condition indices; food composition data; food and feed quality and sanitation; and in-situ projects that include all of the above.

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