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All Bears are Omnivores Like People, New Research Suggests

New analysis on the diets of big pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) and sloth bears (Melursus ursinus) provides proof that bears are low-protein macronutrient omnivores and wish rather a lot much less protein than they’re usually fed in zoos.

A male big panda named Xiao Liwu at San Diego Zoo, California, the US. Picture credit score: Sci.Information.

“Bears should not carnivores within the strictest sense like a cat the place they eat a high-protein weight-reduction plan,” mentioned Washington State College’s Professor Charles Robbins.

“In zoos perpetually, 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 do this, you kill them slowly.”

Of their experiments, Professor Robbins and colleagues introduced captive big pandas and sloth bears at completely different U.S. zoos with limitless meals of various varieties to see their preferences after which recorded the dietary profiles of their selections.

They performed feeding trials with a pair of big pandas to measure their bamboo choice.

They discovered that the pandas most well-liked the carbohydrate-rich bamboo culm discovered within the woody stalks, over the extra protein-rich leaves.

At some factors, the animals consumed culm nearly solely — as an example 98% of the time within the month of March.

The researchers additionally analyzed knowledge from 5 zoos in China which had big 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 an identical make-up to their wild weight-reduction plan of termites and ants in addition to their eggs and larvae. It’s additionally vastly completely different than the high-carbohydrate weight-reduction plan they’re often 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 reason for demise is liver most cancers.

The researchers noticed an identical 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 brought on by a few years of poorly balanced diets.

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

“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 keen to ask the bears: What do you wish to eat? What makes you are feeling properly?” Professor Robbins mentioned.

The findings seem within the journal Scientific Stories.


C.T. Robbins et al. 2022. Ursids advanced early and repeatedly to be low-protein macronutrient omnivores. Sci Rep 12, 15251; doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-19742-z

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