A comparative analysis of nutrient content in foods commonly consumed by chimpanzees in captivity and in the wild
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Chimpanzees are listed as endangered species (Caspary, 2001). Today, conservation is seen as a way to protecting surviving populations and rolling back decline in their populations. Feeding is a key part of the conservation effort and should be properly implemented. The dietary needs of captive chimpanzees are still not comprehensively understood, and are largely based on recommended daily allowances. Response to nutrition formulas are assessed through variation in body weight and condition of the chimpanzees. This work presents a comparison of dietary provisions of chimpanzees in captivity (UWEC) and the wild (BFR). Food samples were compiled and their nutrient contents established for comparison. The body conditions of the chimpanzees were studied as an implicit indicator of the quality of their diet. For both UWEC and BFR, fruit makes the bulk of the food; 42.7% and 71% respectively. Both proximate and nutrient analyses were conducted for the foods at UWEC and BFR. Foods in BFR had a higher carbohydrate and crude fibre content than foods at UWEC. There was no difference in protein and fat content in the foods in UWEC and BFR. The foods in UWEC also had a higher Calcium, Potassium, Sodium and Phosphorous content than foods in BFR while foods in BFR had a higher Iron content than those in UWEC. The chimpanzees at UWEC had a significantly higher body condition scores than the chimpanzees of similar age at BFR. The juvenile chimpanzees in at UWEC had an average body condition score of 3.64 as compared to 2.5 for chimpanzees at BFR. There was no apparent relationship between chimpanzee sex and body condition scores for both UWEC and BFR chimpanzees. Body condition score however increased with increase in age. Working on the hypothetical basis that chimpanzees in the wild have sufficient food resources to maintain healthy and sustainable population, then their feeding routine should be matched to their contemporaries in captivity; this should form the basis for the feeding recommendation for captive chimpanzees. The results of this work can be further refined by collecting more data, from different geographical locations. Defining a more accurate dietary response would benefit from a study on the physiological energy-demand of chimpanzees living in captivity and in the wild; to better understand the nutritional needs of chimpanzees.