Vitamin D Status in Wild Toque Macaques (Macaca sinica) in Sri Lanka

The vitamin D receptor is found on most cells, including active immune cells, implying that vitamin D has important biological functions beyond calcium metabolism and bone health. Although captive primates should be given a dietary source of vitamin D, under free-living conditions vitamin D is not a required nutrient, but rather is produced in skin when exposed to UV-B light....

Sequencing the Black Rhino L-Ferritin Gene: How Accurate is our Testing?

Black rhinoceros under human care must be monitored for their iron status due to detrimental but poorly epidemiologically documented consequences of iron overload disorder. The recommended approach to assessing iron status in black rhinoceros examines transferrin saturation and ferritin, a species-specific protein, known to be an iron carrier as well as an acute- phase reactant.  Kansas State University Diagnostic Veterinary...

Continuing Assessment of Vitamin Analysis Reliability Across Laboratories: Examples in White and Black Rhino Species

As part of an ongoing assessment of vitamin E supplementation in white and black rhino species (2017 – 2018) at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the first 6 months of assessment utilized 2 laboratories (A and B) for vitamin E analysis in split serum samples, and 2 laboratories (C and D) for vitamin E analysis in split fecal samples.  In both species...

Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos) Diet Management: Seasonal Diets to Attain Healthy Weight

Grizzly bears (Ursus Arctos) are specially adapted to survive the changing seasons of northern latitudes through changes in metabolism and behavior: In the zoo environment, these adaptations make weight management a challenge (Watts, 2009). Wild bears pack on the pounds during warm months to ensure they can survive the winter’s harsh weather and scarcity of food – losing as much...

From Farm to Fang: Sourcing Carcasses for Carnivores

Incorporating large whole prey items into the diet of carnivores (big cats, condors, and more) can provide complete nutrition – from the meat, bones, organs and even fur, as a source of fiber – with the beneficial effects of stimulating activity and promoting species-specific, naturalistic feeding behaviors. San Diego Zoo Global is evaluating potential addition of large whole prey items...

Handrearing a Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius): A Rare Opportunity for Collaboration

On January 24, 2017, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden had a premature hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibious) calf (Fiona) born to a first-time mom (Bibi) on land weighing 29.6 lbs.  After one and a half hours, Fiona was pulled due to no attempts to stand or nurse coupled with lack of maternal care; Fiona was cold to touch and needed supportive care. ...

Analyses of Diet and Serum Mineral Concentrations in African Elephants (Loxodonta africana) Housed at the NC Zoo

Elephants in human care (Loxodonta africana) are often over conditioned. Consequently, many zoos aim for reduced caloric intake and increased activity levels. Diets containing higher dietary browse and forage percentages with lower inclusion of pelleted components may stimulate increased foraging behavior. However, feeding increased browse with unknown nutrient profiles while decreasing pelleted nutritionally complete feed could prove problematic with respect...

Development and Application of a New Insect-Based Complete Diet for Insectivorous Mammals

Commercial complete diet options for insectivores are very limited and most are an extruded diet. The extrusion process requires a high level of carbohydrates, which is not appropriate for animals that consume insects. Insects do not contain high levels of carbohydrates, they are mainly fat and protein. Chitin is an important component of insects, found in the exoskeleton, it acts...

Effect of Different Protein Levels on the Performance and Apparent Protein Digestibility of Orphan Calves of Amazonian Manatees (Trichechus inunguis)

The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of four dietary crude protein (CP) levels, provided by mixing two commercial milk replacers, on the performance and protein apparent digestibility of captive orphan calves of Amazonian manatees (Trichechus inunguis). Four individuals (two males and two females), with an average weight of 28.95 kg and 8.75 months-old in average were...

Browse Collection and Preservation for Winter in a Northern Zoo

Zoo nutritionists agree that herbivores need browse to maintain and improve their dental, gastrointestinal, and psychological health, and ideally browse should be offered throughout the year. Unfortunately, zoos in temperate climates such as Chicago’s have difficulty providing browse for their animals in the colder months, and many zoos have limited available space for browse storage.  The Chicago Zoological Society –...

Gastritis in the Short-Beaked Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus): Parallels with Ruminal Acidosis in Herbivores and Implications for the Understanding of Echidna Digestive Physiology

Short-beaked echidnas (Tachyglossus aculeatus) are endemic to Australia and south-eastern New Guinea (Indonesia and Papua New Guinea). In mainland Australia they feed primarily on termites. Echidnas have a single chambered stomach which is entirely lined with squamous (non-glandular) cells, and is histologically analogous to the rumen. The short-beaked echidna stomach has historically been understood to function as a grinding or...

Technology Use for Physiological State: Use of NIRS to Predict Pregnancy Status in Bongo (Tragelaphus eurycerus)

The eastern bongo (Tragelaphus eurycerus), a browsing African antelope species, is critically endangered. Diets under human care can be challenging for this species because of limited browse availability, and maintaining optimal health for reproduction is critical. Monitoring reproductive status in the bongo using fecal hormone analysis has not yet been explored; thus, we developed the methods for and validated a...

Sequencing the Black Rhino L-Ferritin Gene: How Accurate is Our Testing?

Black rhinoceros under human care must be monitored for their iron status due to detrimental but poorly epidemiologically documented consequences of iron overload disorder. The recommended approach to assessing iron status in black rhinoceros examines transferrin saturation and ferritin, a species-specific protein, known to be an iron carrier as well as an acute- phase reactant.  Kansas State University Diagnostic Veterinary...

Short-Beaked Echidnas (Tachyglossus aculeatus): An Insectivorous Herbivore

Short-beaked echidnas are considered myrmecophages, carnivores that specialize in eating termites and ants. Dogs and cats have been used as the carnivore models to develop their artificial diets. Echidnas appear to do well on artificial diets, often living 50+ years in captivity. A recent review of necropsies of echidnas at Taronga Zoo revealed pathology in captive echidnas that may have...

Proximate Composition of Milk of Captive Nine-Banded Armadillos (Dasypus novemcinctus)

Armadillo dams have a potentially unique challenge in that their pups rapidly grow a bony carapace, suggesting a high requirement for the transfer of calcium and phosphorus from dam to pups via milk. We examined milk samples from 10 armadillo dams, samples collected at days 1 – 6, 14 – 15, 33 – 38, and 49 – 51 after birth....

Case Study: Iron in Black Rhinoceros Diets: The Impact of Pasture

Over the course of a year, serum ferritin and iron in a black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) increased over time, despite a prescribed diet low in iron. To identify additional sources of iron intake, vegetation in the enclosure was analyzed for iron content. Iron concentrations in enclosure samples averaged 736 ppm, well in excess of maximum recommended total-diet concentrations of 300...

Implications of Managing a Mother-Reared Orangutan Indoors During Early Infancy

In September, healthy male orangutan was born and raised by the dam at the National Zoological Park. However, due to enclosure limitations and timing of the year, the pair would have no access to the outdoor enclosure until May. Knowing that milk was not likely to contain biologically significant levels of vitamin D, and access to UV lighting was not...

Regurgitation and Reingestion in Captive Great Apes

Two male western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) and one female northwest Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus) at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium have exhibited recurring regurgitation and reingestion (R&R) behavior. No negative health effects have been noted related to this behavior in the two gorillas; however, the orangutan has had multiple cavities that are suspected to be related...

Baseline Intake Study for Four Species of Primates in Captivity: Callithrix pygmaea, Nycticebus pygmaeus, Propithecus coquereli and Callithrix geoffroyi

Little information is known in regards to the natural or seasonal diets of primates. In captivity, nutrition can be an important part of preventative medicine and lead to an improved quality of life for primates. To better understand the nutrient intake of four primate species in the collection at the Philadelphia Zoo, we conducted an intake study over a minimum...

Case Study: Winos for Rhinos: Feeding Grape Pomace to Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) as a Method for Mitigating Iron Storage Disease

Iron storage disease has been detrimental to the captive browsing rhinoceros population. One of the proposed methods for reducing available iron in the gut of these animals is to increase iron chelators into the captive diet that are normally present in the wild diet. This study used the wine making by-product grape pomace, which is naturally high in tannins, as...

Analysis of Fecal Glucocorticoid Concentration in African (Loxodonta africana) and Asian (Elephas maximus) Elephants in Relation to Management and Nutritional Factors

Identifying relationships between management and nutrition factors related to the physiological needs of elephants under human care is vital for improving husbandry and welfare standards. This study consisted of 130 African (Loxodonta africana) and 104 Asian (Elephas maximus) elephants housed in 65 separate facilities throughout North America. Fecal samples were obtained every other week for 12 months and analyzed for...

Macronutrient Selection in Mammalian Insectivores at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

This study determined macronutrient target of several mammalian insectivore species including 3-banded armadillo, aardvark, tamandua (lesser anteater), and greater anteater. These insectivores are often maintained on a commercial insectivore diet, which may or may not be appropriate for every species in this diverse and polyphyletic group. Animals were fed three experimental diets that varied in their proportions of calories from...

The Influence of Giraffe Behavior on Parasite Load: Impact of Husbandry Modifications at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

Haemonchus contortus is a gastrointestinal parasite that lives in the abomasal mucosa of ruminants. Similar to cattle, giraffe housed in warm climates are prone to parasitism by stronglyes such as Haemonchus contortus. At Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida a behavioral study and retrospective parasite survey was conducted to determine if a correlation exists between giraffe behavior, feeding methods, and parasite...

The Mob – Under Investigation

‘Brewer’, a 4 year old male red kangaroo (Macropus rufus) under human care at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, presented on December 10, 2016 with signs of colic, penile prolapse, and dribbling urine. Diagnostic imaging, including radiographs and computed tomography (CT) with contrast, revealed urethral obstruction with a radiopaque stone and additional uroliths in the left ureter and right renal pelvis. The...

Polar Bear Nutrition Guidelines

Polar bears, the most carnivorous of the Ursidae family, prey primarily on ringed seals (Best, 1985; Derocher, et. al, 2000; Stirling and Archibald, 1977).  When brought into captivity, maintaining their nutritional and mental health can be challenging.  Due to the lack of indepth species-specific research, captive polar bear diets must be based on a combination of known requirements of related...

Macronutrient selection in mammalian insectivores at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

This study determined macronutrient target of several mammalian insectivore species including 3-banded armadillo, aardvark, tamandua (lesser anteater), and greater anteater. These insectivores are often maintained on a commercial insectivore diet, which may or may not be appropriate for every species in this diverse and polyphyletic group. Animals were fed three experimental diets that varied in their proportions of calories from...

The Hungry Hungry Hippo

In January 2017, Fiona the baby hippo was born at the Cincinnati Zoo six weeks premature and some 30 pounds underweight. Getting Fiona to put on pounds was a life-or-death matter. Unfortunately, nursing wasn’t an option, and the only hippo formula recipe on file was old and out of date. To devise a new one, team Fiona turned to the...

Featuring a great inter-institutional collaboration!
“A hippo, an orangutan, and a scientist walk into a milk bar…” or so our story goes.

Click the image to take a listen.

This story is also featured on CNN as a Great Big Story.

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Body Condition Scoring Resource Center

  The following body condition scoring (BCS) scales have been obtained from a variety of sources.  We have credited the authors where we can, and encourage you to submit newly developed or modified scales or corrections to attributions.

The following body condition scoring (BCS) scales have been obtained from a variety of sources.  We have credited the authors where we can, and encourage you to submit newly developed or modified scales or corrections to attributions.

Click to expand

Pangolins, Aardvarks, & Xenarthrans (Sloths, Anteaters, Armadillos)

About BCS Scales

Body condition scoring (BCS) is a subjective measurement of an animal’s muscle definition and superficial fatty tissue.BCS for Zoo Animals

BCS has been used for many years in the livestock industry to improve the productivity, health, reproduction and longevity of herds.  BCS has become increasingly common in zoological settings for many of the same reasons.  Our greatest challenge in zoos is to develop practical systems or scales for the diverse species with which we work.  Some scales have been well-developed and validated, while others remain works in progress.  The NAG encourages the careful and thoughtful development of new scales, the refinement of those that already exist, and the diligent attention to their implementation for the good of the animals in our care.

About BCS Scales

Body condition scoring scales are numerical, and they typically range from 1 (emaciated) to either 5 or 9 (obese).  When using a 5-point scale, many people will assign half points (2.5 or 4.5 out of 5), which effectively turns the 5 point scale into a 9 point scale.  Whenever possible, we recommend the use of a 9 point scale.

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Implications of BCS Scores

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Low BCS scores have been associated with lowered reproductive success, poor recovery from illness, and may be a sign of disease or age.  High BCS scores have been associated with an increased risk of dystocia (difficulty giving birth), reproductive disorders, arthritis, diabetes, and other chronic conditions (Chan-McLeod et al. 1994; Burkholder 2000; Aeberhard et al. 2001; Busato et al. 2002; Berry et al. 2007; Boudreau 2012).  Despite the known risks of being too far at either end of the BCS spectrum, a BCS score should be non-judgmental.  You may be pleased that an animal recovering from a serious illness has moved from a 2 to a 3 (on a 9-pt scale), yet worry that a healthy animal has dropped from a 4 to a 3.  You may be glad that an obese animal has dropped from an 8 to a 5, yet endeavor to raise an animal preparing for hibernation from a 5 to an 8 or 9 (which may be “normal,” physiologically, for the species in question).  Keep in mind that just because it may be “normal” for a species to be over-conditioned at a specific time of year or life stage, this does not impact the BCS scale (a score of 8/9 remains 8/9, even if declared “appropriate” in terms of animal management; the scale does not “slide” to make that over-conditioned animal a 5/9). In addition, the scale is does not slide for growing, geriatric, or pregnant animals (regardless of stage of life, metabolic status, etc, the scale is designed to assess condition as objectively as possible).

Tips for Body Condition Scoring

  • BCS is best learned and implemented through consistent practice.  Often, it helps to have multiple staff involved at the start (animal managers, keepers, veterinarians, nutritionists, etc.) to make sure everyone is on the same page regarding terminology, anatomy, and the scoring system being used.  In the end, however, it is often best to have a limited number of scorers so that consistency can be maintained.  In addition, having someone who does not see the animals every day perform the scoring can be helpful.
  • Scorers should be familiar with the anatomy of each species.  If multiple scorers are utilized, they should be objectively evaluated for consistency with the same animals.  It can be helpful to note the initials of the scorer when a BCS is performed and recorded.
  • Although there are many different systems/scales (even for a single species), it is a good idea to pick one scoring system for each species and stick with it.  This allows for increased familiarity and proficiency, over time.
  • BCS is a particularly useful tool for animals that aren’t very tractable or for those who are unable to be weighed regularly.  If body weights are available, BCS acts as a complementary assessment for management purposes.  Ensure that the interval between BCS is reasonable and practical.
  • For growing animals, body weights can be paired with appropriate growth curves to assess development. However, body weights in growing individuals often vary, even within species, and may not be the best assessment of growth. In these cases, BCS can be used not only to assess appropriate growth, but also to establish target weights for individuals.
  • If your species of interest does not have a scale established, please consider developing one.  If you do, look at those that have already been thoughtfully developed. Ideal BCS scales are easy to use, distinguish biologically relevant changes in status, provide enough description that multiple observers will obtain similar results, and, ideally, have been validated through other means (ultrasound, TOBEC, necropsy).  Photographs and drawings should clearly show points of interest and be coupled with clear written descriptions.   The NAG encourages you to share your systems by presenting a poster or presentation at our conference, or publishing in another format that can be accessed by the zoo community.
References
    • Aeberhard K, Bruckmaier RM, Kuepfer U, and Blum JW. 2001. Milk Yield and Composition, Nutrition, Body Conformation Traits, Body Condition Scores, Fertility and Diseases in High-Yielding Dairy Cows – Part 1. Journal of Veterinary Medicine Series A 48:97–110.
    • Berry DP, Lee JM, Macdonald KA, and Roche JR. 2007. Body Condition Score and Body Weight Effects on Dystocia and Stillbirths and Consequent Effects on Postcalving Performance. Journal of Dairy Science 90:4201–4211.
    • Boudreau L. 2012. Effect of Moderate Diet Restriction on Body Condition, Health, and Reproductive Performance in Female Mink (Neovison vison).
    • Burkholder WJ. 2000. Use of body condition scores in clinical assessment of the provision of optimal nutrition. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 217:650–654.
    • Busato A, Faissler D, Küpfer U, and Blum JW. 2002. Body condition scores in dairy cows: associations with metabolic and endocrine changes in healthy dairy cows. Journal of Veterinary Medicine Series A 49:455–460.
  • Chan-McLeod ACA, White RG, and Holleman DF. 1994. Effects of protein and energy intake, body condition, and season on nutrient partitioning and milk production in caribou and reindeer. Canadian Journal of Zoology 72:938–947.

If you know of additional published resources for this page, we encourage you to submit them for potential inclusion:

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Preliminary investigations into circulating vitamin E concentrations in captive okapi (Okapia johnstoni)

Normal circulating vitamin E levels have not been established for okapi (Okapi johnstoni) on a captive diet. Blood samples were obtained in 1996 by the Okapi SSP for free-ranging okapi in Zaire (Lukas, 1996). In 2009, vitamin E levels were acquired for animals housed at the Epulu Station in the Democratic Republic of the Congo fed an all leaf diet...

Managing diabetes through diet in black-footed tree rats (Mesembriomys gouldii) and greater stick-nest rats (Leporillus conditor)

Clinical and pathological signs consistent with diabetes mellitus (DM) were observed in a collection of Black Footed Tree Rats (BFTR; Mesembriomys gouldii) and Greater Stick-Nest Rats (GSNR; Leporillus conditor) housed at Taronga zoo. Review of the medical records of eighteen BFTR between 1991 and 2014, and thirty eight GSNR between 1995 and 2014, revealed a high frequency of animals with...