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Oklahoma City Zoo spends $630,000 to feed 1,200 animals each year

OKLAHOMA CITY - Every step of food preparation at the Oklahoma City Zoo's Animal Nutrition Center is a meticulous process.

"Every single animal has its own unique diet that is set up for its nutritional needs," said Kim Leser, behavioral husbandry and animal welfare at the OKC Zoo.

The food is measured and weighed to the gram by chefs every day.

The employees get in about 6:30 a.m. every single day to prepare food for about 1,000 animals, each with a very specific diet plan.

"I graduated college two years ago, and then I was working on my family farm afterward," said Garrett Stinnett, animal diet technician at the OKC Zoo.

On this day, Garrett Stinnett is making apples, cauliflower, romaine and pears for the okapi, which is indigenous to Africa.

"Certain types of food can be hard to grow in certain areas so, lots of times, we have to find substitutes, but we always start with that nutritional quality so what the calories are, what the sugar content, things like that,” Leser said.

There is a specific recipe for each animal, but one thing is the same for each exotic animal.

"All of our food we pull in here is restaurant quality, so it's the exact same stuff you might feed to your own kids or your own family at home. We actually source it from the same companies you buy food from the restaurants," Leser said.

Each animal has its own way of getting fed, too. The fruit bats have bananas hanging on a tree, the felines are tossed meats and the rat snake - well, tongs are preferable.

It costs around $630,000 to feed the 1,200 animals who live at the zoo each year. Staff said the high price has a huge pay-off.