Sunday, April 22, 2012

Primate Nutrition

We spend a considerable amount of time either thinking about what we will eat, getting what we want to eat, and ultimately, eating. Actually, on average, Americans 15 or older spend 67 minutes a day eating (How Much Time do Americans Spend Eating?) So what about primates and their diet activities? In this blog, we will examine some common dietary considerations for primates. 

By now you know that there is great diversity among primate species, but some generalities can be made about their diets. Typically, primates consume large amounts of plants and plant remains, which may have very different levels of caloric and nutrient value. Many primates (depending on their class) do not have the ability to synthesize Vitamin C. These species add fruit to their plant-centric diet. Additionally, primates will often consume various insects, if available to them, as insects can be highly nutritious. In captivity, primates are often fed a combination of fresh fruit (mango, apple, papaya, oranges, bananas, raisins, etc), veggies (lettuce, carrots, cucumber, sweet potato, eggplant, cauliflower, broccoli, etc), and nuts, yogurt, etc. Most facilities and institutions, including almost every zoo, have turned to prepared food products known as "monkey chow". Probably, the most common monkey chow is developed by Purina, and contains a specialized formulation with added Vitamin D3, carbohydrates, and supposed great taste. Oddly enough, a recent experiment by a blogger involved consuming monkey chow for days. Check out the Monkey Chow Diaries

Questions remain about putting most/all captive primates on standardized diets of monkey chow, with or without their added multivitamins. Obviously, this is not the seasonal diet that they would have experienced in their natural habitat. Although, without natural and competitive pressures associated with food, captive primates have one less thing to worry about. Researchers spend considerable time examining links between behavior, diet, and stress, and the impact of all three on reproductive success. As the research insights become available, many primate keepers are becoming more and more sophisticated with their rationing of food, particularly as it relates to enrichment activities.

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