Acid-insoluble ash as a measure of dry matter digestibility in captive African elephants
There are limited data on the diet dry matter digestibility (DMD) of captive African elephants (Loxodonta africana)
Although the total fecal collection method is the standard for determining DMD, it is labor-intensive, time-consuming, and expensive. The acid-insoluble ash (AIA) marker technique has been used successfully to determine DMD in ruminants and monogastrics. The objective of this study was to assess how accurately the AIA marker technique could estimate the DMD of captive African elephants (Loxodonta africana). Three mature male African elephants at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Florida were used in this study. The animals were offered a Bermuda grass hay-based ration, and the total dry matter intake (DMI) and total fecal output were measured daily over a 7-day period to determine the total collection DMD. The feed ingredients and fecal samples were also analyzed for AIA. Although there were differences (P<0.05) in total DMI and total fecal outputs, the DMD values did not (P>0.05) differ (35.1±0.72 vs. 37.1±0.72 for total collection and AIA, respectively). There was a linear (y=0.9461x; R2=0.74) relationship between the total collection and AIA marker technique DMD values. These results suggest that AIA can be used to accurately estimate the DMD of captive African elephants.