Should Zoo Foods be Chopped or Should We ‘Lemur’ them Whole

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
JE Brereton
MedPress Nutrition & Food Sciences
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It remains common practice to chop the food of zoo-housed animals, even when the animals themselves are capable of processing larger food items. Zoo husbandry practices should be based on evidence, so there is a need to identify whether chopped food diets have any benefits for animals as opposed to whole items. Research was undertaken to investigate the effect of food condition (chopped or whole) for a bachelor group of ring-tailed lemurs Lemur catta. Lemur diets were prepared in both a chopped and whole format, with equal amounts of each ingredient being provided for each format. Both the chopped and the whole food were provided to the lemur group simultaneously, and the food intake, food preference, and behaviour of the lemurs was measured using instantaneous focal sampling. While lemurs ate slightly more whole food (161 grams) than chopped food (137 grams) per observation, this was not significant. Lemurs also tended to select whole food items more frequently, though this was also not significant. However, lemurs spent significantly longer feeding, and engaged more often in carrying behaviour, when selecting whole food items. No issues associated with aggression or stealing were observed. Overall, whole food items had beneficial effects in terms of lemur movement and feeding time. It is likely, therefore, that diets containing whole foods may have value in terms of lemur husbandry and management, encouraging more natural feeding strategies. This would have value in terms of saved keeper time, reduced nutrient breakdown of food, and reduced risks of contamination. Further studies on lemur food presentation could incorporate studies of food preference and food manipulation.


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