Cheetah nutrition: recent advances and revised SSP recommendations


Dierenfeld E, Kerr K, Whitehouse-Tedd K. 2015. Cheetah nutrition:  recent advances and revised SSP recommendations. In Bissell H, Brooks M Eds. Proceedings of the Eleventh Conference on Zoo and Wildlife Nutrition, AZA Nutrition Advisory Group, Portland, OR.


The SSP Cheetah Animal Care Manual was recently revised and updated, and is due for release by the end of 2015. As part of this process the Nutrition chapter was re-written in order to incorporate recent research findings and provide a more comprehensive overview of our current understanding. A review of the in situ diet of the free-ranging cheetahs demonstrated a preference for medium-sized ungulate prey, although smaller prey such as hares and large prey including kudus were also important dietary components according to various studies (Marker et al., 2003; Hayward et al., 2006). The prey preference of the wild cheetah is thought to reflect morphological adaptations, prey availability within cheetah range, as well as behavioral considerations for a species which is typically unsuccessful in defending prey against kleptoparasites. In order to best utilize findings from wild cheetah diets when evaluating or formulating diets for captive animals we compiled a table comparing the nutrient composition of the various natural prey species. A significant gap in the literature was subsequently identified whereby nutritional composition data was typically missing or only partially available (e.g. excluding micronutrients such as essential vitamins and minerals) for the majority of wild prey and even their domestic counterparts. For example, few data exist on the nutrient composition of whole ungulate carcasses; extrapolation of mineral data from Holstein calves suggested that trace minerals may be quite variable in particular, and the contribution of bone or non-meat carcass elements to nutrient profiles was unknown.

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