Survey of feeding practices, body condition and faeces consistency in captive ant-eating mammals in the UK
A survey was conducted investigating the feeding practices, body condition, and faecal consistency of 26 giant anteaters (Myrmecophaga tridactyla), 13 aardvarks (Orycteropus afer), and 31 armadillos (Dasypodidae spp.) from 20 zoological collections in the UK. For the latter two, scores for body condition (BCS, from 1 – emaciated – to 5 – grossly obese) and faeces (Faecal Score (FS) from 1 – solid – to 5 – diarrhoea-like) were applied. The majority of the UK collections offered a ‘complete’ feed for anteaters and aardvarks as opposed to the traditional ‘gruel’ diet. Armadillos were fed mixed diets of fruits, vegetables, eggs, dog or cat food, and various other items. Grossly obese individuals (BCS >4) were only observed in two armadillo species. The average body mass recorded for giant anteaters was above values reported for wild animals, but this was not the case in aardvarks. Anteaters received on average 75% of the amount of dry matter offered to aardvarks, although their basal metabolism is only 60% that of aardvarks; hence, anteaters might have been offered more food than required. The FS for anteaters were higher than for aardvarks or armadillos. Dietary ash, acid detergent fibre and acid insoluble ash (AIA) levels did not correlate with either FS or faecal dry matter (DM). However, there were negative correlations between faecal ash and AIA content with faecal DM and FS, suggesting that measures increasing AIA intake above that achieved by current diets might beneficially influence FS. Only one anteater had a patent parasite infection; this animal had an FS of 5. Results of this survey will encourage careful monitoring of body mass and diet for giant anteaters and armadillos to avoid obesity. Further studies are needed to investigate the impact of higher levels of indigestible material in anteater diets on faecal consistency, growth, and body condition.
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