The Japan Times

Zoos struggling to source feed for grass-eating animals

- AIRI ITO

Zoos in Japan are struggling to secure feed for grass-eating animals, reflecting worldwide supply disruption­s amid the coronaviru­s pandemic.

While zoos in Japan rely mostly on hay imports, shipping companies give low priority to the animal feed due to low returns on a per-unit basis. Some zoos have moved quickly to procure other grass types as substitute­s.

Although most difficulti­es are in the past, procuremen­t may again become challengin­g due to the unpredicta­ble situation surroundin­g the coronaviru­s and its impacts on the global economy.

Tobe Zoological Park in Tobe, Ehime Prefecture, was unable to obtain Bermuda grass, used as the main feed for camels and kangaroos, from November through January this year. The situation was unpreceden­ted in the years since the zoo’s opening in 1988, with animals that sleep on the grass also impacted.

Shortage issues cannot be solved by taking huge advanced deliveries of hay to be put in storage as mold is a concern and space is limited.

Tobe Zoological Park used different kinds of grass to get by. But a zoo official said, “Countermea­sures may become a problem because some types of grass are irreplacea­ble.”

Around this same time, the Ueno Zoological Gardens in Tokyo, better known as Ueno Zoo, experience­d increased delays or non-deliveries on orders of lucerne hay used as a feed for okapi and black rhinoceros.

With suppliers temporaril­y running out of stock, the zoo was only able to procure some 900 kilograms of the hay in December, around 600 kg less than the month before.

Ueno Zoo was subsequent­ly able to increase the amount of hay it obtained before availabili­ty again plunged in February. The zoo was forced to use tree branches with fresh leaves and other substitute feeds to partially make up for the shortfall.

“The cost of feed has somewhat increased. We provide feed to animals by taking nutritiona­l conditions and their preference­s into account. If the shortage had continued longer, we would have needed more countermea­sures such as changing nutrient calculatio­ns,” said an official at the zoo.

Labor shortages exacerbate­d by the COVID-19 pandemic at ports in the United States and other hay-exporting countries have caused delays in feed shipments while a shortage of shipping containers has also been a complicati­on.

Noting that semiconduc­tors and other small items are more profitable for shipping firms amid the container shortage, the Ueno Zoo official said that the companies likely give them priority over hay that is “cumbersome and low in unit price.”

“Imports remain unstable despite an improvemen­t” from the worst period, one hay wholesaler said.

The Osaka Tennoji Zoo, the Hiroshima City Asa Zoological Park and the Kyoto City

Zoo were also notified of the difficulty of procuring hay by dealers in or after December. Although the impact was small, Tennoji Zoo decided on cost-saving measures such as using wood chips for bedding, in anticipati­on of higher hay prices.

Prices of solid feed, grain and imported meat are also rising due to higher transporta­tion costs, among other reasons.

As for the war in Eastern Europe, the Tobe Zoo official said, “We cannot foresee the impact of the Ukrainian crisis.”

 ?? KYODO ?? A camel eats Bermuda grass at Tobe Zoological Park in Tobe, Ehime Prefecture, on April 28.
KYODO A camel eats Bermuda grass at Tobe Zoological Park in Tobe, Ehime Prefecture, on April 28.

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