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Pseudosasa japonica

Tabet et al., 2004

the field and in another in captivity (Schaller et al., 1985). Soil consumption is believed to have several possible functions, including satisfying trace mineral requirements, chelating metal ions and binding secondary plant metabolites, thus inhibiting their absorption (Robbins, 1993).

Estimated nutrient requirements and availability

Information on nutrient requirements of giant pandas is lacking, yet managers of captive specimens could benefit from reference standards of adequate dietary nutrient concentrations. Such estimates are possible if one considers the species' natural feeding ecology and its gastrointestinal anatomy, as well as the defined nutrient requirements of similar species (e.g. the domestic dog). Using actual annual food consumption by three adult giant pandas and chemical analysis of consumed foods, we predicted mean intake of selected nutrients. As part of these estimates, intake of bamboo species was based on equal distribution of five commonly offered species across total bamboo intake. Consumption of the individual bamboo components (leaf, branch, culm, each being unique in nutrient composition) was calculated using prediction equations based on the relationship between total bamboo fresh mass and bamboo component dry mass (Edwards et al., unpublished data). Estimated adequate nutrient concentrations in offered diets and calculated nutrient intake for the giant panda in captivity are summarized in Table 6.7. For comparative purposes, recommended adult dog nutrient allowances for maintenance and dog food nutrient profiles also are provided.

Users of this information should consider the physiological differences between the giant panda and other non-ruminants (e.g. dog, rat and pig) from which these nutrient guidelines are extrapolated. In particular, although not known, it is possible that the rapid passage of fibrous digesta through the panda gastrointestinal tract could reduce digestion and/or absorption of certain nutrients, including major minerals, trace elements and fat-soluble vitamins. However, the comparatively higher level of food intake by the giant panda may well compensate for reduced nutrient availability. A research priority is determining if nutrient availabilities implicit in recommendations for better-studied models (e.g. the dog) are appropriate for the giant panda, or if higher nutrient levels are warranted as a precaution against low accessibility.

Nutrient guidelines

Water

Water is an essential and often overlooked nutrient. Water, which comprises 99% of all molecules within the animal's body, functions as a solvent, is involved in hydrolytic reactions, temperature control, transport of metabolic products, excretion, lubrication of skeletal joints and sound and light transport within the ear and eye (MacFarlane & Howard, 1972; Robbins, 1993).

Table 6.7. Estimated adequate nutrient concentrations in diets offered to, and calculated nutrient intake (on a dry matter basis) by, giant pandas in captivity, recom mended adult dog maintenance nutrient allowances and dog food nutrient profiles (on a dry-matter basis)

Nutrient

Giant panda

Dog

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