The potential to increase neutral detergent fiber levels in ape diets using readily available produce


Schmidt DA, Kerley MS, Dempsey JL, Porton IJ. 1999. The potential to increase neutral detergent fiber levels in ape diets using readily available produce. In Proceedings of the Third Conference on Zoo and Wildlife Nutrition, AZA Nutrition Advisory Group, Columbus, OH.


Many studies report what wild orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) select for food. Hamilton and Galdikas (1994) determined wild diets contained dietary neutral detergent fiber (NDF) levels of 75%. NDF represents structural polysaccharides (cellulose and hemicellulose (HMC)) potentially digested by microbial fermentation in the lower gut. Fiber presence in the gut and fermentation end-product production have been shown to prevent obesity and diabetes (Anderson et al., 1987) and maintain gut health (Kerley and Sunvold, 1996). Based upon their intestinal anatomy and diet selection in the wild, we were interested to learn the potential to increase NDF levels in diets for captive orangutans using available produce and manufactured primate biscuits. We questioned whether or not feeding more produce in lieu of manufactured feed would result in higher levels of dietary NDF. A variety of readily obtainable, whole produce items were analyzed for dry matter, crude protein, NDF, acid detergent fiber and ash. Published values for many items omit the plant/fruit portion not consumed by humans, yet these portions are consumed by animals and should be included in the nutrient analyses. NDF levels ranged from 3.1% to 26.8% for fruit, 13.3% to 27.7% for greens and 7.5% to 30.9% for vegetables. Sugarcane and a banana flower, examples of browses, had NDF levels of 32.6% and 41.2%, respectively. Other browse items were not readily available and therefore not analyzed. Commercially available, high-fiber biscuits had NDF levels of 27.9%, 28.6% and 29.6%. Dietary NDF levels, similar to those consumed by wild orangutans, could not be met with produce alone. Based on these data, increasing dietary NDF will require browse incorporation into the captive orangutan diet or higher NDF in manufactured diets.

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