ATLANTA - If you think kids are picky eaters, try feeding a giant panda. Or four! It takes a whole team of bamboo hunters to feed Zoo Atlanta's pandas.
They enjoy a diet primarily made up of bamboo. All of it, grown locally in Georgia.
"We try to keep as close to wild as possible. Pandas eat up to 16 hours of the day. That's 220-pounds of bamboo!" explained Rytis Daujotas, Manager of Animal Nutrition.
Daujotas leads the Bamboo Team. They visit two sites a day, harvesting the animals' main meal. Picking, chopping, piling and carrying bamboo back to the zoo. We caught up with them on a stop at a home in Virginia Highland. The backyard of bamboo will only provide a snack.
"For pandas, we usually harvest about 500-pounds a day," explained Daujotas.
The bamboo has to be fresh. Wilted leaves and discolored stalks aren't part of the panda palate. The harvesting effort is a year-round gig.
The Zoo's Bamboo Donation Program has helped keep Atlanta's favorite black and white bears fed.
"Rain, sun or snow, we still have to go and harvest," laughed Daujotas, sweating in long pants and a long-sleeve shirt in 90-degree weather to keep away the bugs.
There is a Bamboo Hotline if you'd like to supply Zoo Atlanta's pandas with food. The number is 404.624.5884