Fiber digestibility in juvenile Galapagos tortoises and implications for the development of captive animals

Source: Zoo Biology, vol 24, issue 2, 2005
Digestive strategies have been recognized to be a key factor for healthy growth in juvenile Galapagos giant tortoises. The aim of present study was to investigate digestive coefficients with special regard to fiber fractions.
Four captive bred Galapagos giant tortoises (Geochelone nigra) 4-5 years of age were fed a controlled diet for 32 days. The diet consisted of 77% hay, 15% tortoise pellets, and 8% apples on a dry matter basis. On a dry matter basis diet analysis showed: 95.7% organic matter, 11.3% crude protein, 20.5% crude fiber, 22.6% acid detergent fiber, 5.0% acid detergent lignin, and 17.6% cellulose. Based on total fecal collection during 7 days average dry matter digestibilities were calculated: 65% for dry matter, 67% for organic matter, 63% for crude protein, 55% for crude fiber, 49% for acid detergent fiber, 41% for acid detergent lignin, 54% for cellulose. An increase in crude fiber content resulted in a reduced digestibility in comparative evaluations of data for different tortoise species, and in a comparison of tortoises and mammalian hindgut fermenters. Compared to some mammalian hindgut-fermenting herbivore species (domestic horses, Asian elephants, Indian rhinoceroses) on a diet of hay and concentrates, the juvenile Galapagos giant tortoises showed a digestion of similar efficiency. If a reduction in dietary digestibility is warranted in juvenile Galapagos giant tortoises, it is concluded that dietary fiber levels should be increased and it is proposed that crude fiber levels of 30-40% on a dry matter basis should be achieved.

Title: Fiber digestibility in juvenile Galapagos tortoises (Geochelone nigra) and implications for the development of captive animals

Authors: Jean-Michel Hatt, Marcus Clauss, Ricarda Gisler, Annette Liesegang, Marcel Wanner