Animals at Alfriston’s Drusillas fear vegetable shortfall

Zoo keeper Gemma eating carrots with Spike the porcupine
Zoo keeper Gemma eating carrots with Spike the porcupine

The animals at Drusillas Park, Alfriston, have been following the recent reports into the shortage of vegetables with particular interest this week, after it was revealed that British supermarkets are rationing the purchase of some fresh produce.

Several leading retailers have limited the number of items customers can purchase, after severe flooding and storms in the Mediterranean has led to reduced vegetable crops. Iceberg lettuce and broccoli are amongst the most affected, with other vegetables in diminished supply too.

For the keepers at Drusillas this is particularly bad news; the zoo relies heavily on vegetable produce after implementing a fruit-free diet amongst its residents in April 2016.

All fruit items have been removed from their plant eater’s diets completely and replaced by vegetable alternatives. Even the fruit bats have swapped a diet of melon and mangos for sweet potatoes and parsnip.

An average weekly shopping bill at the zoo includes a whopping 12kg of broccoli, 15kg of courgette, 50kg of fine green beans, 20kg of sweet potato and 12 cabbages.

The reason for this is that the fruit cultivated for consumption by humans is just too sweet and sugary for the animals, compared to the less ripened fruit they would eat in the wild.

Head Keeper Mark Kenward is responsible for animal diets at the zoo and introduced the new food plans last year. He said, “All the animals at the Park are on specialised controlled diets and we work very hard to ensure that they remain at their optimum body weight and the peak of physical fitness, to ensure they stay as agile and healthy as possible.

“We are very proud to be a fruit-free zoo – all our animals are on vegetable-based diets as this is so much better for them. The fruit cultivated for our own consumption is much sweeter, higher in calories and lower in fibre than that which the animals would naturally eat in the wild. This is not only bad for their waistlines, it is also bad for their teeth.

“We are hoping that the shortages will not affect us too severely but we will be monitoring the situation closely over the coming weeks.”

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