City of Joburg

Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo

Johannesburg Zoo


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The animals at the Johannesburg Zoo enjoy highly nutritious and really rather tasty food – well, if you are one of them – so they are healthy and happy. Unlike their wild counterparts, they never experience hunger and will share their mealtimes with visitors.

FEEDING time for animals at the Johannesburg Zoo is an exciting experience – for the animals and for the visitors. But it is not all about entertainment; it is also a chance for visitors to learn more about animals' diets and how they eat in the wild.

The zoo staff use the opportunity to ensure that visitors receive the correct information, while they are giving top priority to the animals' welfare. The Joburg Zoo is a member of PAZAAB, the African Association of Zoos and Aquaria, which is affiliated to the World Association of Zoos and Aquaria. This means it operates at the highest international standards of caring for the animals and providing a suitable environment for them, among other duties.

One of these duties is what the zoo calls "freedom from hunger" – providing a balanced, nutritious diet and allowing the animals to feed in a natural manner. This means that if a bird naturally feeds by digging into the ground for insects and grubs, it is allowed that opportunity. This type of feeding keeps animals healthy, allowing them to use their specially designed bills, teeth and limbs as they were designed to be used. Some primates feed in trees, some birds go digging and some, like giraffes, eat from a height.

Zoo animals are also fed a natural diet; so carnivores receive meat; herbivores receive fruit, vegetables, grasses and appropriate leaves; and animals that eat meat and plants receive all their requirements too.

Herbivore diet
African and pygmy hippos, for example, naturally eat plants. The African hippo regularly feeds on grass and aquatic vegetation, while the pygmy hippo picks up vegetation from the forest floor. These animals generally lead quiet, sedentary lives so don't require very high energy food. The hippos at the zoo are fed a varied diet, and the zookeepers often try out different meals to see which the hippos like best.

Omnivore diet
Like humans, chimpanzees are omnivores and eat meat and plants. At the zoo they and the other herbivores receive fruit and vegetables, along with treats such as boiled eggs or popcorn. In the wild, they hunt and kill other animals for food, or forage for seeds, nuts, leaves, flowers and other vegetation.

Carnivore diet
The honey badger, or ratel, is a small carnivore, and in the wild is known for being fearless. It will hunt small animals such as lizards, rodents and birds, but also larger animals such as polecats, young foxes, young antelope and even large reptiles, such as snakes and crocodiles. It also eats insect larvae, beetles and scorpions. The Joburg Zoo feeds its honey badger beef, chicken, pigeons and fruit, getting a diet mainly of animal protein.

Visitors can join animals at mealtimes on public holidays and weekends only, at the following times:
Chimpanzees: 10am
Vultures (Sundays only): 11am
Ground hornbills: 11.15am
Wild dogs and cheetahs: 12.15pm
Crocodile talk (Sundays only; not in winter or on cold days): 1pm