During the holiday season, Fort Worth Report journalists are remembering their favorite stories of 2022. Click here to read more essays.

Brazos, the Fort Worth Zoo’s youngest elephant, was hungry for my shoelaces. The young elephant stretched its trunk beyond the wire fence and began grabbing the edge of my shoe. Christine Del Turco, the zoo’s lead elephant trainer, warned me of Brazos’ scheme, and I promptly shifted to a safe distance.

I came to the zoo on a bright sunny morning in September not as a visitor or to cover the latest zoo news. Instead, I came as a way to explain a trend I was tired of writing about: Inflation. Prices for food have reached a 40-year high, extending local Food Bank lines. I was tired of looking at chart after chart each month to explain the issue, and went on a hunt for a fresh angle.

That’s when I saw a video of penguins at a zoo in Japan spitting out a less-expensive fish as the zoo attempted to tackle inflation. That begged a question: How does the Fort Worth Zoo cater to more than 7,000 animals, all with different diets, without breaking the bank? 

The zoo’s nutrition department head told me about all the ways they try to save: freezing meat, locking in contracts and finding the right food substitutes that animals will actually eat. 

As a reporter who formerly worked at a public radio station, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to capture the story in sound as part of Fort Worth Report’s collaboration with KERA. I wanted to tell the story through what I witnessed and heard.

Listen to Seth Bodine’s radio feature on the Fort Worth Zoo, which aired on KERA and the Texas Standard

My favorite part of that process was capturing the sound of hungry elephants, which eat 50 to 100 pounds of hay each day. It took time to actually succeed — turns out, elephants are not loud eaters. But as I waited, the sound came: a low, rumbling trumpet in the distance. I was delighted.

Seth Bodine is a business and economic development reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at seth.bodine@fortworthreport.org and follow on Twitter at @sbodine120.

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Seth Bodine is the business reporter for the Fort Worth Report. He previously covered agriculture and rural issues in Oklahoma for the public radio station, KOSU, as a Report for America corps member....