Department of Anthropology and Sociology, The University of Southern Mississippi
April 16, 2016 , Atrium Ballroom A/B
This study surveys current diets provided to captive housed chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes sp.), with an eye towards improving captive management and laying the foundation for a larger study examining dietary flexibility and chronic diet related diseases found amongst captive apes and humans. A Chimpanzee Species Survival Plan (SSP) endorsed survey of diets fed to zoo and sanctuary housed chimpanzees was conducted in the 2015 calendar year. To date, no other survey documenting captive chimpanzee diets in North America has been conducted. Although chimpanzees in their native habitats forage actively and consume seasonally variable and complex diets rich in fiber and polyphenols, captive chimpanzees ingest high-quality, low- fiber diets rich in monocrop domesticates. Additionally, chimpanzees in captivity often experience obesity and diabetes. While Chimpanzee SSP dietary recommendations are based on wild feeding ecology, the majority of zoos report feeding diets that are significantly higher in caloric content (T=3.08, p=.01) and lower in fiber content (T=-12.47, p<.001) than their wild counterparts and current SSP recommendations. Energy dense, low fiber diets coupled with relatively lower activity levels than those seen in the wild could be contributing to the obese and diabetic cases seen in captive chimpanzees. I suggest that following SSP recommendations and mimicking the nutrient composition of wild diets as closely as possible will lead to a reduction in obese and diabetic cases and improvements in captive management.