How Are Lions Fed In The Zoos? Are Zoos Good For Them?

Share This Post & Help Others!

How are Lions fed in the Zoos?

Lions are provided with red meat of cows and buffaloes as per the time schedule of 6 to 7 times a week. Each animal is provided with at least 5 to 8 kgs of freshly slaughtered red meat per day.

Just like in India, each captive Asiatic lion is provided with a minimum of 6.75 kgs of Beef meat per day, and each Asiatic lioness with at least 5 kgs of beef meat per day. Vitamin A and Vitamin B supplements are also added to their diet as per the prescription.

In some of the Zoos, mostly in the Zoos of the US, it has been seen that the big cats like lions, cheetahs, etc. are provided with the whole carcasses (the dead body of the prey) or portions of it by removing the unnecessary organs.

It has been seen that many of the Zoos in the US follow the nutritional standard set by AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) to maintain the lions’ daily energy requirements of 115–130 kcal/kg.

So, in the least-case scenario, approximately 3.5 kg per day of fresh meat is prescribed for adult male lions, and 2.7 kg per day for adult females based on diets containing 1.75 kcal/g.

It is also stated that under the prior observance of Veterinarians and Nutrition experts individual feeding rates can be evaluated and readjusted based on regular assessment of the animal’s body condition score and weights respectively

In many of the zoos in the US, it has been also seen that at most of the days in a week the lions receive a commercially produced diet made of beef meat which contains all of the necessary requirements to fullfil their daily dietary needs.


While at least once a week, they are provided with frozen or fresh meat with the large femur, humerus bones of the prey to keep them healthy, active, and feel like wild.

Lions’ daily food must include meat with at least 37% proteins, 40% fats, at least 2% fibres, and 42% of moisture.

So, sometimes in order to cope up with nutrition scarcity, every zoo has veterinarian-approved and formulated diets to ensure their health and wellbeing.

There are some USDA prescribed commercial supplements in the US that are added to the meat that they eat in order to full their dietary requirements, including calcium and amino acids.

In India, the Central Zoo Authority inspects all the zoo related concerns and has provided various SOPs and Nutritional guidelines for all zoos to follow.

Lions have evolved to feed on all parts of the prey’s body, except for a few of the bony parts.

So, the zoos always try to provide them with readily available dead bodies of the prey to stimulate their natural behaviours as seen in the wild.

When provided with the whole carcass (dead body), they do basically and aesthetically feed upon the bones, skin, connective tissues, organs, fur, intestines with little to no wastage. And, that’s what their kind of evolved behaviour is.

In the zoo, it has been reported that at maximum both a healthy lion and a lioness can eat up to 15% to 18% of their own body weight in just one meal.

There are always Nutritionists and Veterinarians present inside the Zoo premises who keep a close eye on the balancing diets of the lions and other animals based on their life stages, health issues, and transitions from one amenity to another. This is not always possible in the wild.

Generally, a group of dedicated keepers and a management support specialist are there who manage to feed and provide daily care to the zoo lions that are kept in captivity.

Most dedicatedly it is the job of the zookeeper to feed the lions. They usually use a shoot or simply throw the food by hand into the holding where the lions are.

Do Zoos feed living animals to Lions?

In most of the zoos, dead animals are fed to the lions as stated so far. Either the finely cleaned dead bodies, or slaughtered bodies with all of the organs, or portions of frozen or red meat, or commercially prepared food added with supplements are provided to the Lions in Zoos.

The zookeeper basically provides the lions with dead bodies of the prey by throwing it in their food plate or food holding, but no such instances of live feeding is seen in most of the zoos.

In many parts of the world, feeding alive animals to lions and other predators is considered illegal.

However, in many countries, there’s no law to govern the feeding of living animals to lions and other big cats.

There are some zoos that still allow visitors to feed live animals, or the zookeeper themselves feed living animals like cows, chickens, etc. to predators like lions.

Visitors are also charged as per the norms to feed live animals to lions and other big cats. Such instances have been well-reported by various media publications in many of the Zoos of China.

According to a study conducted by students and teachers from several Beijing universities, live animal feeding activities were reported in some of the zoos of China.

These zoos sold small animals like chickens, rabbits, etc, to visitors so that they can feed the predators.

In some instances, it has been also seen that herbivore animals like cows, goats, buffaloes, oxen, horses, donkeys, chickens, rabbits, etc. to be thrown inside the predators’ like lions’, tigers’, and other big cats’ cage for a live kill.

Zookeepers and researchers say that feeding live animals to lions and other predators can support the animals’ physical, mental, and social health.

This can also stimulate natural behaviors as seen in the wild because they have evolved to eat exactly in this way by killing and eating alive.

For some of the zoos and lion keepers, they feel like feeding alive animals in this way is in line with the best available animal care science and evolved behavioural patterns.

Lions’ Food Habits: In The Zoo Vs. In The Wild

In the wild, lions eat more as compared to that of the zoo. In the wild, each individual can eat around 8 kgs or more amount of meat, while in captivity they are okay to survive anywhere between 5 to 8 kgs of meat or on meat-type food products per day.

In the wild, they need to go out, plan, and make a hard kill in order to get themselves and their pride to survive. Whereas, in the zoo, they easily get all of the food and nutrients from time to time without any hustle.

In the wild, they can eat anything from buffaloes to antelope, wildebeest, impala, zebras, young elephants, young rhinos, etc. While in captivity, they are prone to feed on a few types of animal meat like those of the chickens, cows, and buffaloes more often.

In the wild, they are prone to diseases and can also become unable to hunt due to their old age. Whereas, in the zoo, there are veterinarians and nutritionists who take care of them to make sure that they live well and fulfill their dietary requirements on time.

In the wild, lions may fight with each other and eventually many of the fighters may get killed or severely injured. Whereas comparing it to the zoo, zookeepers have well-managed strategies to make these animals feel at home and treat each other as a family.

Maybe that’s another reason why a recent study has found that mammals who live in zoos have a longer life expectancy than those living in the wild.

In the wild, they hustle to survive in the harsh habitats and so a lot of energy is required in their daily diet. Whereas, in the zoo, they get everything served in front of them except for the freedom out of their cage.

And so, they are adapted to eating less in the zoo as compared to those of the wild. And so, eventually, they have become much lazier and energetically living while in the zoo.

Do lions eat bones?

Yes, lions eat bones. When they make a kill they eat almost all of the portion of the animal’s body including all of the organs, skin, fur, and most of the bones.

In the zoo, they are seen to be fed with long and thick bones particularly the femur, humerus, ribcage bones of beef. And according to the zookeepers, this helps the lions’ to get all of the essential nutrients from raw bones.

In almost the majority of the zoos, lions are provided with raw bones after every three to four weeks, or at least once a week.

When you visit the zoos, you may often see them licking and crunching large portions of their bones with their powerful jaws during their free time.

Bones are actually a very good source of calcium along with various other amino acids that are essential to provide the required vitamins and minerals for maintaining the lion’s good health.

Feeding on bones can also fulfill the phosphorus requirements in the lion’s body. This aids in the formation of their skeletal system, and for maintaining their energy metabolism, protein synthesis, cell signaling, and lactation as well.

So, feeding lions with bones at intervals can keep proper phosphorus to calcium ratio in their body. This will in turn avoid any severe nutrient deficiencies to the animal.

In some zoos, lions are also provided with parts of bones that are commercially prepared with added supplements just in order to fulfill the lions’ minimum daily dietary requirements.

Feeding the lions with bones can also result in a slow-release of leptin hormone in their hind-gut which helps to regulate energy balance by inhibiting hunger, and also by diminishing fat storage in their adipose tissue.

What do lions do at the zoo? Are Zoos good for the Lions?

Lions are usually seen lying and taking a nap most of the time of day in the zoo. Some may just sit and watch around the vicinity of their cage in a very relaxed position when the visitors glance at them from outside.

They know their time to eat and roam as trained by the zookeeper. As the feeding time approaches they roars and walks around the cage while raising their tail to give indication that they are hungry.

In a cage with a lion and a lioness it has been seen that when the zookeeper provides them with the food, the lion will first get his chance to eat while the lionesses will still wait for the lion to eat and then she will eat. This indicates their social behaviour.

Unlike in the wild where they perform wildly sexual behaviours, in the zoo the zookeepers take care of their needs and provide them with the utmost care of feeding, cleaning and medical checking as per the requirements are concerned.

Also, in order to fulfil their sexual desires, a healthy lion is also allowed to mate and reproduce with a lioness either in an induced or artificially manner under the proper supervision of experienced specialists.

They require a lot of space to live and so they are provided with such amenities but under well-fenced boundaries.

This provides great space for the big cats to roam around while making them feel like in the wild and also for the visitors to enjoy the sight.

In the present-day scenario, zoos try to justify the existence of these big acts inside their premises for the sake of conservation, education, research, and recreation purpose only.

In other words, in the zoo, they are treated with love and utmost care while still taking care of their reproductive health and choosing great genes for their great upcoming offsprings.

So, Are Zoos Good For Them? Although in zoos the authorities try to provide them with utmost care for conserving their population and existence, and yes it feels like a king for them as they get a lot of facilities like timely food, medical checkup, etc. without any hustle. But, it is always believed that these are wild animals and so must be kept in the wild in their natural type of habitats so that they can give their best to the ecosystem and evolve well in the upcoming years.

Share This Post & Help Others!