Growing proof exhibits that captive bears want a balanced weight-reduction plan | Native

PULLMAN – Bears usually are not cats or canines, and feeding them like they’re probably shortens their lives. 

A brand new research in Scientific Studies on the diets of large pandas and sloth bears provides extra proof that bears are omnivores like people and want lots much less protein than they’re usually fed in zoos.

“Bears usually are not carnivores within the strictest sense like a cat the place they eat a high-protein weight-reduction plan,” mentioned lead creator Charles Robbins, a Washington State College wildlife biology professor. “In zoos eternally, whether or not it’s polar bears, brown bears or sloth bears, the advice has been to feed them as if they’re high-protein carnivores. Once you try this, you kill them slowly.”

In separate experiments, researchers introduced captive large pandas and sloth bears at totally different U.S. zoos with limitless meals of various varieties to see their preferences after which recorded the dietary profiles of their selections.

In collaboration with researchers from Texas A&M College and the Memphis Zoo, feeding trials had been carried out with a pair of large pandas to measure their bamboo choice. They discovered that big pandas most well-liked the carbohydrate-rich bamboo culm discovered within the woody stalks, over the extra protein-rich leaves. At some factors, they consumed culm nearly solely – as an illustration 98% of the time within the month of March. The researchers additionally analyzed information from 5 Chinese language zoos which had large pandas that had efficiently reproduced and located once more, a high-carbohydrate, low-protein weight-reduction plan.

In units of feeding trials, six sloth bears on the Cleveland, Little Rock and San Diego zoos, had been introduced with limitless avocados, baked yams, whey and apples. They selected the fat-rich avocados nearly solely, consuming roughly 88% avocadoes to 12% yams – and ignoring the apples all collectively. This confirmed sloth bears most well-liked a high-fat, low-carbohydrate weight-reduction plan, which can have the same make-up to their wild weight-reduction plan of termites and ants in addition to their eggs and larvae.

It’s additionally vastly totally different than the high-carbohydrate weight-reduction plan they’re normally fed in captivity. Sloth bears, that are native to India, usually dwell solely round 17 years in U.S. zoos, nearly 20 years lower than the utmost lifespan achievable in human care. Their most frequent explanation for loss of life is liver most cancers.

Researchers noticed the same sample in earlier research of polar bears that confirmed captive polar bears, who’re usually fed a high-protein weight-reduction plan, would mimic the fat-rich weight-reduction plan of untamed polar bears if given the choice. Polar bears in zoos usually die about 10 years sooner than they need to, most frequently of kidney and liver illness. These two ailments can develop from long-term irritation of these organs, doubtlessly attributable to a few years of poorly balanced diets.

The present research, together with earlier ones, additionally exhibits that when captive bears are given dietary choices, they’ll select meals that imitate the diets of untamed bears.

“There’s definitely this long-standing concept that people with Ph.D.s know much more than a sloth bear or a brown bear,” mentioned Robbins. “All of those bears began evolving about 50 million years in the past, and by way of this facet of their weight-reduction plan, they know extra about it than we do. We’re one of many first to be prepared to ask the bears: What do you wish to eat? What makes you are feeling properly?”

Robbins, the founding father of the WSU Bear Middle, the one analysis establishment within the U.S. with a captive inhabitants of grizzlies, has studied bear diet for many years. He and his graduate college students first began investigating their misbalanced diets throughout a research in Alaska, watching grizzlies eat salmon. On the time, the researchers had theorized that the notoriously voracious bears would gorge on salmon, sleep, rise up and eat extra salmon.

As a substitute, they noticed the bears would eat salmon, however then wander away and spend hours discovering and consuming small berries. Seeing that, Robbins’ laboratory began investigating weight-reduction plan with the grizzly bears housed on the Bear Middle and located they gained probably the most weight when fed a mix of protein, fat and carbohydrates within the mixture of salmon and berries.

All eight sorts of bears, or Ursids, had a carnivore ancestor however have since developed to eat a big selection of meals, which gave them the flexibility to unfold into extra areas by indirectly competing with resident carnivores.

“It simply opens up so many extra meals sources than simply being a straight, excessive protein carnivore,” Robbins mentioned.


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