Dietary management of a Hamadryas baboon (Papio hamadryas) troop to improve body and coat condition and reduce parasite burden
Dietary management of baboons
Feeding primates in zoological institutions is no simple task due to their varying nutritional requirements and complex social organisations. Daily feedings in a zoo enclosure of high quality food items such as fruits may encourage food based dominance within a group, which leads to unequal division of energy and nutrients. Dominant animals tend to be overly conditioned and subordinate individuals tend to be underconditioned. This is particularly true with large troop primates such as hamadryas baboons (Papio hamadryas). The troop at Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) also had chronic parasite burdens. We aimed to lower the soluble carbohydrates of the diet and increase fibre fractions to decrease food based aggression and reduce the large range of body conditions within the WRS troop and reduce parasite burden. We collected 10 random fresh faecal samples both before and after the diet change and did a quantitative analysis of worm burdens on each sample. We recorded body condition and coat scores for six males and their harems’ weekly for eight weeks before and after the diet change. The diet was changed from a diet of mostly fruit, rice and chicken to vegetables, pulses and browse. The average body condition of the troop was significantly reduced from 4.2 to 3.7 and the coat condition was significantly increased from 2.9 to 3.5. The average parasite count decreased from 1670 to 610 however this did not reach significance. Nutrients and energy was more evenly spread out with a suspected reduction in food dominance. Parasite burden seemed to have decreased however infants which are often subject to high burdens were not affected by this diet change which may have skewed the results. A low soluble carbohydrate and high fibre diet was conducive to healthy weight and coat conditions of a P. hamadryas troop, and also may have helped reduce the parasite burden of adults.
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