Limited nutritional information exists on diets of free-ranging orangutans, Pongo abelii and P. pygmaeus. Although they are classified as frugivores, the chemical composition of their diet and their gastrointestinal anatomy suggest that they rely on fiber fermentation for a substantial portion of energy. However, the extent to which they can ferment fiber is not known. Continuous culture systems, inoculated with orangutan fecal bacteria, were established to determine the fiber-digesting capacity of orangutan hindgut microflora. The cultures received one of four treatments: soybean hulls, ground corncobs, corn starch, or no food. Neither dry matter nor neutral detergent fiber digestibilities differed significantly among treatments. However, neutral detergent fiber digestibilities were high for both the soybean hull (88.4%) and ground corncob (86.1%) treatments, indicating that the microflora had a strong fibrolytic capability. To determine whether the same fiber-degrading capacity occurred in vivo, two adult orangutans and one juvenile were fed four gel-matrix diets containing soybean hulls, ground corncobs, or ground primate biscuits. Neutral detergent fiber concentrations (dry matter basis) of the gel matrices were 52.9% with soybean hulls, 46.8% and 63.7% with ground corncobs, and 31.3% with ground primate biscuits. A fifth diet consisted of primate biscuits with 27.3% neutral detergent fiber (dry matter basis) and was considered the baseline diet. Neutral detergent fiber digestibility (74.5%) was greatest (P < 0.05) for the soybean hull gel diet and least (57.5% and 45.0%, respectively; P < 0.05) for the 63.7% neutral detergent fiber (dry matter basis) corncob gel diet and the baseline primate biscuit diet. Total volatile fatty acid concentrations in orangutan feces were not significantly different among diets; however, molar proportions of acetic, propionic, and butyric acid differed (P < 0.05) among diets. The results from both studies indicated that orangutans are capable of extensive fiber fermentation.
Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine
Vol. 36 • No. 4
Vol. 36 • No. 4