Zoologists have found that bears in zoos are slowly killed by malnutrition

(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists at the University of Washington have found that captive bears can become omnivorous like their wild counterparts when given the opportunity, and this diet can prolong the animals’ lives.

In most zoos, it is recommended that all bear species be fed a high protein diet, meaning that their diet contains mostly animal products. The same is true for cats, for example. But they are obligate predators, while bears are omnivores.

To test bear preferences, scientists gave captive giant pandas at various US zoos unlimited amounts of different types of food.

The pandas preferred the carbohydrate-rich bamboo stem over the protein-rich leaves. At some points they consumed almost exclusively stalk culm, such as 98% of the time in March.

The researchers also analyzed data from five Chinese zoos that have successfully bred giant pandas they ate a lot of carbohydrates and little protein, just like their wild relatives.

The experiment was repeated on six sponges. They were given unlimited amounts of avocados, baked yams, whey, and apples.

They chose fat avocados almost exclusively, eating roughly 88% avocados and 12% sweet potatoes and ignoring apples entirely.

That is, sloths prefer a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet. A similar composition has their wild diet of termites and ants, as well as their eggs and larvae.

A similar diet in terms of the content of proteins, fats and carbohydrates was chosen by polar bears.

Sloths living in India live in US zoos for only about 17 years, which is almost 20 years less than their maximum lifespan.

The most common cause of their death is liver cancer.

Polar bears in zoos die about 10 years earlier than they should, most often from kidney and liver disease. Scientists believe that this shortened lifespan may be due to prolonged unbalanced diets.

All eight bear species had a predatory ancestor, but have since evolved to become omnivores. In nature, this allows them not to compete for food with other predators.

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