TABLE 1-8 Examples of Food Consumed by Primates in Zoos and in the Wild (Oftedal and Allen, 1997)

Food Type

Dry Matter, %

Crude Protein, %

Fiber Fractionsa

 

NDF, %

ADF, %

AL, %

Ca, %

P, %

Market produce used in primate dietsb

Apples

12.8

2.3

17.4

12.6

3.8

0.0

0.0

Green beans

10.7

17.9

28.0

25.1

2.2

0.4

0.4

Cabbage

8.9

14.7

20.6

21.9

1.7

0.6

0.3

Carrots

12.2

7.7

15.2

16.5

1.5

0.2

0.4

Kale

12.3

32.5

19.3

24.7

4.6

0.9

0.4

Foods eaten in the wild by red howler monkeys (Alouatta seniculus)c

Flowers

25.1

14.4

50.6

35.8

17.1

0.5

0.3

Fruits

23.7

7.0

53.8

35.2

16.6

0.6

0.2

Mature leaves

36.5

16.6

57.2

40.5

20.4

1.4

0.1

Young leaves

32.2

21.2

54.4

36.4

21.1

0.3

0.3

Note: all values, except dry matter, are expressed on a dry matter basis.

aNDF = neutral detergent fiber; ADF = acid detergent fiber; AL = acid lignin.

bAll data except calcium and phosphorus from Oftedal et al., 1982; calcium and phosphorus values from USDA Standard Release 14.

cUnpublished data of M.S. Edwards, S.D. Crissey, O.T. Oftedal, and R. Rudran, as cited in Oftedal, 1991.

logic and behavioral needs of the species in captivity might be a greater challenge.

Diets for strict faunivores in a captive setting—including Arctocebus, Galago, Loris, Microcebus, and Tarsius—are limited by the availability of suitable vertebrate and invertebrate prey. Although crickets (Acheta domestica) and meal-worm larvae (Tenebrio molitor and Zophobas morio) are readily available, they are not adequate to support the estimated nutritional requirements of these nonhuman primates (Oftedal and Allen, 1997). Guidelines on the handling and care of invertebrate prey to improve their nutrient quality as foods, specifically their calcium content, are provided by Allen and Oftedal (1989).

Food consumption by Tarsius appears to be influenced by movement of the prey offered as food. Thus, dietary prey must not only be living when presented, but must also be maintained in an environment (for example, with proper temperature, humidity, and photoperiod) that supports their needs and encourages natural movement.

As one reviews the literature on natural feeding habits of primates, it should be noted that biologists identify wild plant foods with botanic terms (such as fruit, flower, and petiole). However, these plant parts and their compositions are substantially different from commercially available produce that has been selectively cultivated for human consumption (Table 1-8). Thus, if commercial produce is to be offered to captive primates, that selection should be based on suitable nutrient composition and not solely on the basis of botanic classification.

Free-ranging primates devote a large percentage of their daily activity to acquisition and processing of food, and foraging not only satisfies a physiologic need, but plays a behavioral and social role in the life of primates. Provisioning captive populations of primates removes the need to forage in order to survive. However, if the diet is presented as a meal or on a predictable schedule, the behavioral needs of the animal might not be satisfied. Caretakers are encouraged to offer the diet in small portions distributed irregularly throughout the species-typical feeding period. The manner of diet preparation and presentation can also influence feeding behavior and the opportunity for equitable acquisition of food by individual animals in groups (Smith et al., 1989).

Leaf-eating primates—including Propithecus, Indri, Alouatta, Nasalis, and Pygathrix—have long been recognized as specialist feeders that are difficult to adapt to a “captive” diet. The impression that plant fiber is a negative dietary component and that a diet low in fiber is “preferred” by these captive primates has produced many of the health problems commonly seen (Edwards and Ullrey, 1999b). That conclusion is supported by a number of reports of a high incidence of gastrointestinal disorders among leaf-eating primates, many of which might be a result of consuming rapidly fermentable foods such as commercial fruits and vegetables (Hill, 1964; Bauchop and Martucci, 1968; Hick, 1972; Höllihn, 1973; Benton, 1976; Benirschke and Bogart, 1978; Heldstab, 1988; Taff and Dolhinow, 1989; Janssen, 1994). The beneficial role of plant fiber in promoting satiety, normal fecal consistency, and gastrointestinal health is well documented (Cummings, 1978).

REFERENCES

Adiputra, I.M.W. 1994. Feeding behavior of Javan leaf monkey (Presbytis comata comata). 15th Congress International Primatology Society Handbook and Abstracts. #82. Kuta, Bali, Indonesia.

Agetsuma, N. 1995a. Foraging synchrony in a group of Yakushima macaques (Macaca fuscata yakui). Folia Primatol. 64:167-179.



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