Iske, C. J., Morris, C. L., Colpoys, J. D. et al. 2018. Nutrient evaluation of a pork by-product and its use as environmental enrichment for managed large exotic cats. PLoS ONE 13(9), e0202144.

North American zoological institutions typically feed ground raw meat diets to large exotic cats. These diets typically are nutritionally complete, but lack physical properties characteristic of whole prey. Lack of mastication and prey manipulation may contribute to behavioral and health challenges. Pork by-products may provide environmental enrichment to mitigate these challenges. The objectives of this study were to evaluate a pig head for nutritional composition and to determine if a pig head was biologically relevant environmental enrichment for managed large exotic cats. Pig heads consisted of: DM: 48.5%; OM: 60.7%; CP: 38.4%; fat: 22.0%; CF: 13.5%; TDF: 3.4%; GE: 4.1 kcal/g DM. Five individually housed exotic cats (Panthera tigris tigris, Panthera tigris altaica (n = 2), Panthera tigris jacksoni, Panthera leo) were observed in 2-h blocks, 24-h before pig head introduction (Baseline), at time of pig head introduction (Enrichment) and immediately after the pig head was removed (Post Enrichment) via instantaneous scan sampling for 4 consecutive weeks. Active behaviors were 55.7% higher on Enrichment compared to Baseline days, and 26.4% higher compared to Post Enrichment days (p<0.0001). Active behaviors were 39.8% higher on Post Enrichment compared to Baseline days (p<0.0001). Total active behaviors were highest (p<0.0001) in week 3 and lowest (p<0.0001) in week 4 with differences as high as 64.5% seen among weeks. In conclusion, pig heads have potential to provide nutrient dense enrichment to large exotic cats, and employing a pig head as environmental enrichment increased active behaviors and did not lose novelty.

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