The Five Domains Series: Nutrition & satisfying some of the world's pickiest eaters
Lone Pine recently received recognition from the Zoo and Aquarium Association (ZAA) for our commitment to positive animal welfare through their world-leading accreditation program based on the Five Domains Model. The model assesses the positive welfare states of each animal in relation to five categories: nutrition, environment, health, behavior and mental state.
Providing the best nutrition for an animal requires an in-depth understanding of their particular dietary requirements. Here at Lone Pine, we are responsible for achieving this for not one, but around 130 of some of the pickiest eaters in the animal world; koalas. So, what exactly is involved in keeping these discerning diners satisfied?
A koala’s diet consists almost exclusively of eucalyptus leaves and of the nearly 800 different types of gum trees in Australia, koalas will only eat about 50-60. Part of this comes down to where a koala lives and what is available, but also depends on individual preference. Koalas use their keen sense of smell to select which leaves to eat, and their tastes can change over time. What might be the most popular leaf on one particular day could be completely ignored the next. Tastes can also change depending on the season, or even where the leaf was harvested depending on the nutrients in the soil. In addition, koalas generally prefer the new growth leaf, or tip, which contains more moisture and is easier to digest.
To accommodate our koalas’ particular preferences, we offer a variety of fresh leaf daily. Queensland standards state that at least 3 different types of leaf must be provided, however, we strive for 5 species for even more choice. Every day, rain or shine, our team of leaf harvesters collects nearly one tonne of leaf from across our 3 plantations, which contain around 60,000 trees. Once the leaf is back at Lone Pine it is washed and sorted into bins to ensure that each exhibit gets enough leaf in relation to the number of koalas it houses. Every day our team of koala keepers remove the old leaf and replace it with the freshly harvested branches, ensuring they are properly positioned so the koalas can reach the best bits. Day-old leaf gets turned into mulch which we use throughout the gardens and in other animal exhibits.
Meeting the dietary needs of these discerning tree dwellers is certainly no small task. It takes a devoted team of highly knowledgeable and skilled individuals, working together to ensure that our koalas are given the very best diet possible. Addressing the nutritional needs of all animals in our care is just one aspect of our commitment to promoting positive animal welfare outcomes across all of the five domains.