Advances in Giraffe Nutrition

In the last decade, numerous publications have been written with regard to the nutrition of giraffe and other ruminant browsers maintained in zoological institutions, inspired by several health problems suspected to have a nutritional origin. Thus, reports of rumen acidosis, chronic wasting, peracute mortality syndrome, energy malnutrition, hoof disease, inverse serum calcium and phosphorus levels, mortality caused by cold stress, overall poor body condition, urolithiasis, serous fat atrophy, chronic energy deficiency, dental disease, and pancreatic disease, among others, have been linked to nutritional imbalances in the giraffe diet. Traditional giraffe zoo diets in North America consist mainly of low-fiber pellets (ADF-16) and alfalfa hay, with the original pellets designed based on the domestic ruminant. Some zoos will occasionally add browse and some produce. This diet is high in soluble carbohydrates (sugars and starch) and low in total fiber. During the 1970s, and to cope with peracute mortality syndrome reported in the giraffe, it was recommended to feed giraffes a diet containing low fiber and high protein (15% to 18% for adult nonlactating animals and 18% to 20% for calves and lactating cows). The idea of feeding zoo browsers, including giraffe, a low-fiber, high-protein pellet might be partly justified based on earlier studies that reported high levels of nitrogen in the rumen of free-ranging browsers when compared with grazers.

Last Updated
January 30, 2021
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3.04 MB