Feeding Asian pangolins: An assessment of current diets fed in institutions worldwide

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Francis Cabana, Amy Plowman, Thai Van Nguyen, Shih-Chien Chin, Sung-Lin Wu, Hsuan-Yi Lo, Hirofumi Watabe, Fujio Yamamoto
Zoo Biology
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Pangolins are ant specialists which are under intense threat from the illegal wildlife trade. Nutrition has notoriously been their downfall in captivity and is still an issue in regards to rescue and rehabilitation. We analyzed the nutrient content of diets used by institutions that are successfully keeping Asian pangolins and to assess the variety of the ingredients and nutrients, compared these with the nutritional requirements of potential nutritional model species. We performed intake studies at five institutions and also had data from three other institutions. We also analyzed five different wild food items to use as a proxy of wild diet. We observed two categories of captive diets: those mostly or completely composed of insects and those high in commercial feeds or animal meat. Nutrient values were broad and there was no clear rule. The non-protein energy to protein energy ratio of the diets were much higher than the wild food items, more so for those which receive less insects. The average contribution of carbohydrate, fat and protein energy were also further away from the wild samples the less insects they contained. The previously suggested nutritional model for pangolins is the domestic dog which is supported by our relatively large nutrient ranges of apparently successful diets, however due to their highly carnivorous nature; the upper most nutrient intake data are not consistent with this and favor the feline nutrient recommendations. We are unable to render a conclusion of what model is more appropriate based on our data collected.


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