Weigh-ins can help keepers understand if an animal is feeling OK or has access to too little or too much food. Each animal has a diet designed specifically for their needs so, to keep things balanced, the reward for stepping on the scale often comes directly from their favored items in that diet. Zoo nutritionists can pair weights with visual or hands-on exams to monitor body condition, and to make sure animals are developing normally or maintaining the proper amount of weight. And if an animal needs medicine, veterinarians use weight to calculate the correct dosage.
With their knowledge of an animal’s natural history, personality and food preferences, keepers have developed many creative ways to weigh different animals. They can gain a wealth of information from the simple number on a scale, and use it to help provide the best care for all the animals at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute.
This article appears in the November 2021 issue of National Zoo News.