are a staple food source for many animals in Basel Zoo. Basel Zoo now breeds
the animal insect connoisseurs’ favourite dishes
behind the scenes at the zoo itself.
Insects are a real delicacy for many zoo
animals, including reptiles, birds and monkeys. For some animals, insects are
even their main food source. However, every animal group has different
requirements from its insect nutrition, which is why around ten species of
insects are bred behind the scenes at Basel Zoo.
Insects are on
The Lord of the Flies at Basel Zoo is zoo
keeper Thomas Aerni. He makes sure that the breeding of grasshoppers, crickets,
rose chafers, wax moths, houseflies, firebrats, springtails, fruit flies,
earthworms and cockroaches goes without a hitch. The nutritional value of an
insect is only as good as the food the insect receives when it is growing and
hygiene is also very important as insects are very sensitive to changes in
temperature, germs and dirt. Any interruptions in the breeding process must be
avoided as many animals rely on their daily insect delivery.
For example, wax moth larvae are used by birds
to rear their chicks. Firebrats and
springtails are the ideal food for small frogs and also act as a cleaning team
in the terrarium: they eat the smallest particles, which helps keep the
terrarium clean. The archerfish in the vivarium shoot crickets off leaves using
a jet of water and rose chafers and larvae are delicacies for the lizards,
small monkeys and meerkats. Even the hissing cockroaches, which look very
unappetising, are devoured by the crab-eating macaques with great enthusiasm.
thanks to insects
Basel Zoo first began breeding grasshoppers in
2001 when it opened the Etosha house. Before this, insects were bought in from
outside the zoo, as is the usual practice in zoos. In recent years, Basel Zoo
has formed its own insect service, whose task it is to breed insects to use as
animal food. Insects are not only a source of food but also a source of
activity for the animals, and in some cases even part of the exhibition itself:
in the Etosha house, a swarm of one hundred grasshoppers brings the depiction
of the food chain in the house to life.
Once a day in the Etosha house, visitors can
watch the impressive feeding routine of the meerkats, southern carmine bee
eaters, red-billed hornbills, sociable weavers and elephant shrews; they chase
the insects given to them by their zoo keepers, dissect them and then gleefully