COLUMBUS, OH – One Ohio zoo-owner is slicing costs in a unique way.
Rockford Park Zoo owner Dave Bell, like any businessman, has faced some tough choices in recent years. As economic woes threatened the zoo he spent a lifetime building, Bell found salvation in an unlikely source: pizza.
“One of the most expensive parts of running a zoo is buying specialized food for each species of animal we have,” Bell said. “but then I thought, ‘Hey,why not just let them eat pizza? I love pizza.’”
Rockford Park Zoo saved nearly $130,000 in 2011 by switching over to the new, all-pizza diet for the zoo’s varied inhabitants. Forming a partnership with Fabio’s, a family-owned joint located only two blocks away from the zoo, Bell created a feeding system of “4 slices for every 10 pounds, twice a day” at a discounted cost per box. Though many have lauded the financial savvy of the decision, the zoo’s move has not gone without criticism.
“It’s horrifying,” said one animal expert. “You have hundreds of different creatures with different needs, appetites and digestion processes. What happens when an animal becomes sick? What if this baboon doesn’t like pepperoni?”
Bell maintains that the zoo’s detractors are not “seeing the big picture.” He likens the process of acclimatizing the animals to their new diet to his own childhood.
“My mother always said to eat my peas. And after a while, I started to like them. So, there you go.”
As hundreds file into the Rockford Park Zoo daily, many have cited an improvement in the customers’ experience as yet another advantage to Bell’s plan. Bell claims its due to a common bond created by seeing another species consuming their favorite meal.
“People love seeing different animals enjoy what they enjoy,” Bell said. “Look at that tiger — he loves that pizza!”