Brett Blume

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) –  Everybody’s struggling to keep up with their grocery bills these days.

Now consider having to feed thousands of mouths on a daily basis and trying to explain the hardships of a slow economy to a hungry lion, bear or elephant.

“It’s very hard,” explains Jack Grisham, vice president for animal collection at the St. Louis Zoo. “The price of a lot of our food items here have gone up almost 54% in the last year.”

The unusual nature of the daily menu at the zoo also contributes to higher food prices.

“Like over a million-and-a-half mealworms a year, almost three-quarters of a million waxworms, twenty two thousand mice, and fifteen tons of mackerel,” Grisham points out. “And that’s going to increase next year when we open up Sea Lion Sound, we’ll have more sea lions.”

Some more items on the zoo’s menu:

  • 22 tons of carrots annually
  • 104,000 bananas
  • 2,800 lbs. of hay, with a poor growing and harvesting year driving up the price of hay.

Also, the price of beef has risen and carnivore diets have tripled over the past year, and prices for corn, wheat and other grains are also on the rise.

This is where members of the St. Louis Zoo Friends Association and other zoo supporters come in.

A recent letter to Friends Association members asked them to consider making an extra donation this year to help the zoo cover the cost of that ever-mounting food bill.

Of course the St. Louis Zoo is well known as one of the last free public zoos in the country.

Grisham stresses that no matter what, that’s not going to change.

“It’s in our charter that we will be ‘Forever Free’,” he says. “And there is no doubt whatever that we’ll be free forever.”

Those wanting to help out can go to

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Comments (3)
  1. clm says:

    Cut the cost of the Zoo Directors perks like his country club membership and reduce his salary by 10% and put that toward the food budget for the animals.

  2. SND says:

    Should the zoo be acquiring more animals if they can’t afford to feed the ones they have?

  3. Friends of Pearl says:

    WHOA! According to St. Louis Zoo’s 2010 financial statements (to be found on its website), the zoo’s operating profit was almost $7.5 million, and its net assets increased by $17.8 million. The zoo spent less than $1.0 million on animal feed and medical care, as against $5.2 million on “fringe benefits” for the staff. St. Louis taxpayers contributed over $20 million towards the zoo’s running costs. Given that animal feed costs have risen by 54% since 2010, that represents an increase of just over $0.5 million, which should easily be covered by last year’s profits, or by a small reduction in the “fringe benefits”.
    “Animals Always”? Studying these financial statements, one has to wonder just what is going on at the St. Louis Zoo, and how it can justify begging for money to feed the animals.

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