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Providing evidence to improve practice

Action: Carnivores: Supplement meat-based diets with prebiotic plant material to facilitate digestion Management of Captive Animals

Key messages

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  • One replicated, before-and-after study in India found that providing Jerusalem artichoke as a supplement increased two types of gut microbiota, faecal scores and faecal moisture content in leopards.

Supporting evidence from individual studies


A replicated, before-and-after study in 2012 of Indian leopards Panthera pardus fusca in a zoo in India, found that supplementing food with Jerusalem artichoke Helianthus tuberosus, increased two types of gut microbiota, faecal scores and moisture content. Lactobacillus (8.24 log10cfu/g faeces) and Bifidobacterium spp. (13.04 log10cfu/g faeces) and mean faecal scores (2.39) and faecal moisture content (232.1 g/kg) were higher compared to a diet with no Jerusalem artichoke (Lactobacillus: 7.15 log10cfu/g faeces; Bifidobacterium spp.: 12.13 log10cfu/g faeces; faecal score: 1.80; faecal moisture content: 183.7 g/kg). The Jerusalem artichoke appears to improve gut health by promoting beneficial bacteria in the colon. Prior to treatment, eleven leopards housed individually were fed their normal diet of buffalo meat-on-bone with no supplement and during treatment a supplement of Jerusalem artichoke (2% of the diet dry matter basis) was added. Each trial consisted of 18 days of adaptation followed by four days of data collection (blood and faecal samples). Faecal scores were recorded daily (1-5, 1 being the most firm) and blood samples were taken using physical restraint in crush cages on the 22nd day of each trial.

Referenced papers

Please cite as:

Jonas, C.S., Timbrell, L.L., Young, F., Petrovan, S.O., Bowkett, A.E. & Smith, R.K. (2019) Management of Captive Animals. Pages 539-567 in: W.J. Sutherland, L.V. Dicks, N. Ockendon, S.O. Petrovan & R.K. Smith (eds) What Works in Conservation 2019. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.