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New Manual on How to Feed Marine Mammals / October 16, 1998 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

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New Manual on How to Feed Marine Mammals

By Brian Norris, (301) 504-6778,
October 16, 1998

Signs asking visitors not to feed the animals are common sights at zoos and aquariums. To stay healthy, captive animals have to eat "animal" food. For marine mammals, that means fish for dinner every day. Handling and preparing fish for marine mammals are easier tasks now, thanks to a new manual focusing on preserving nutritional quality.

The how-to book is designed to help institutions that care for fish-eating animals meet or exceed all regulations concerning animal feeding.

The manual, "Handling Fish Fed to Fish-Eating Animals," was prepared by the Animal Welfare Information Center of the National Agricultural Library and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. NAL, the largest agricultural library in the world, is part of the Agricultural Research Service, USDA's chief scientific agency.

Proper handling of food for porpoises, seals and other marine mammals is a challenge, according to AWIC coordinator Jean Larson. Most captive fish-eating animals are fed fish that have been frozen for weeks or months, then thawed before feeding time. Proper handling is essential to minimize nutrient loss and prevent bacterial build-up.

The manual discusses all points of handling food-fish—from ordering, purchasing and receipt, to storage, thawing and feeding.

The manual was prepared by Dr. Susan Crissey, director of nutrition services for the Daniel F. and Ada Rice Center, Chicago Zoological Society, with assistance from the AWIC staff. Copies are available while supplies last from the Animal Welfare Information Center, National Agricultural Library, ARS, 10301 Baltimore Ave., Beltsville, MD 20705-2351, (301) 504-6212, fax (301) 504-7125, e-mail

Contact: Jean Larson, Animal Welfare Information Center, National Agricultural Library, ARS, Beltsville, Md., (301) 504-6212, fax (301) 504-7125,

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