Trialling nutrient recommendations for slow lorises (Nycticebus spp.) based on wild feeding ecology

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Feeding wild animals in captivity is a challenge due to their estimated nutritional needs being based on model species (O'Sullivan et al., 2013). Nutrient recommendations exist largely for domestic or laboratory species because this area of research is well funded and has an extensive sample size which is not the case for exotic animals. Non‐human primates were prescribed one of two nutritional models, old world monkey (OWM) which based its nutrient requirements on the rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) or the new world monkey (NWM) which is based on those for the common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) (NRC, 2003). Both of these artificial groups involve many species which are distantly related and have very different physiologies, behaviour and ecology. The OWM group in particular has a large variety of primate taxa which have been shown to not fit the OWM model, such as Lemuridae (Dierenfeld & McCann, 1999; Donadeo, Kerr, Morris, & Swanson, 2016; Junge, Williams, & Campbell, 2009), Colobinae (Nijboer & Dierenfeld, 1996), Hominidae (Crissey et al., 1999; Hoffer, 2016; Less et al., 2014) and Lorisidae (Williams, Cabana, & Nekaris, 2015). There is evidence that the majority of taxa require their own unique nutritional requirements and using a “one model approach” may not be appropriate (NRC, 2003). Stepsirhines are particularly affected, especially Nycticebus spp. due to their specific exudativorous feeding ecology and abundance of health issues observed in captivity (Cabana & Nekaris, 2015).
Nycticebus spp. have a morphology and physiology adapted to consume and exploit plant gums as a staple food source (Nekaris, 2014). Their dentition is specialised to incisiform canines to form a tooth comb as well as procumbent tusk like pre‐molars (Kubota & Iwamoto, 1967). They have a long narrow tongue able to lap up gum that has not yet dried or nectar (Coimbra‐Filho & Mittermeier, 1978). Their gastrointestinal tract (GIT) is also described to be specialised, with a wide large intestine and a voluminous caecum, suggesting their capability for fermenting plant structural carbohydrates (Stevens & Hume, 1995). These adaptations are convergent with the gum‐feeding marmosets (Cebuella, Callithrix spp.) (Smith, 2010). Field research also confirms that gum is available all year long and is used as a staple food item for the pygmy slow loris, which spends on average 30% of its foraging time on gum (Nycticebus pygmaeus: Starr & Nekaris, 2013), 66% of foraging time for the greater slow loris (Nycticebus coucang: Wiens, 2002), 96% of foraging time for the Bengal slow loris: (Nycticebus bengalensis: Das, Nekaris, & Bhattacharjee, 2014) and 52% of intake for the Javan slow loris (Nycticebus javanicus: Cabana, Dierenfeld, Wirdateti, Donati, & Nekaris, 2017; Rode‐Margono, Nijman, & Wirdateti, 2014). These primates are kept in captivity as illegal pets, popular within Japan, Russia, Indonesia, Czech Republic and the United States (Nekaris & Jaffe, 2007) and in zoos worldwide as well as Asian rescue and rehabilitation centres. In spite of the evidence for their exudativorous feeding ecology, this has not been represented in their captive husbandry.
Nycticebus primates are found in 79 accredited zoos worldwide (Zoological Inventory Management System, Species 360, USA), most of which are being fed a diet far removed from their wild diet which does not cater to their morphology or physiology (Cabana & Nekaris, 2015; Fitch‐Snyder, Schulze, & Larson, 2001; Fuller, Kuhar, Dennis, & Lukas, 2013). Zoological institutions worldwide primarily feed these gummivores as frugivores with high amounts of fruits and concentrate feeds, and, little if any, gum or insects (Cabana & Nekaris, 2015). However, multiple studies have found a link between diet and health issues including kidney, dental, coat and gastrointestinal problems (Debyser, 1995; Fuller, Lukas, Kuhar, & Dennis, 2014).
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