Nutritional effect of feeding enrichment using bamboo Pleioblastus spp. in zoo-kept Asian elephants Elephas maximus
Keywords:Asian elephants, bamboo, browse, digestibility, feeding enrichment
Many zoos use browse and other roughage as feed ingredients and enrichment tools for elephants. Amongst these are bamboo species (e.g. Pleioblastus spp.), which belong to the family of grasses. Bamboo is used in zoos worldwide as a dietary item for many herbivores. The fibrous attributes of bamboo are potentially beneficial in reducing diet digestibility and overnutrition in captive elephants. This study aimed to determine the effect of feeding bamboo on nutritional intake, digestibility and blood condition in Asian elephants Elephas maximus. Four Asian elephants aged 4 to 8 years, fed in two groups of two animals, received a conventional diet (CON) or a diet with bamboo (BAM; 4.5 kg
bamboo/animal as fed). In CON, animals were fed sudangrass and timothy hay, rice straw, fresh Italian ryegrass, zoo pellets, carrots, sweet potatoes, steamed potatoes and apples. In BAM, a part of the sudangrass hay, accounting for approximately 20% of the diet on a dry matter basis, was replaced with bamboo Pleioblastus spp. Dry matter, crude protein, and neutral and acid detergent fibre digestibility were similar between the treatments. The concentrations of serum components, including total cholesterol, albumin, glucose, Ca and P, did not differ between the treatments and were almost within the range of previously reported values. These results suggest that feeding bamboo has no negative impacts on the nutritional status and health of captive Asian elephants.
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