Nutrition of marsupials in captivity
I. D. HUME
School of Biological Sciences A08, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia
The successful feeding of any animal in captivity depends on a sound knowledge of its energy and nutrient requirements, and its foraging and digestive strategies. The energy and nutrient requirements of marsupials are typically lower than those of equivalent eutherians. The natural diets of marsupials are discussed in relation to the range of digestive strategies found in the group and the need to provide sufﬁcient indigestible residues to maintain dental health, normal gut motility and, in herbivores, an appropriate balance of microbes in the gut. In all animals there is a need to increase the time spent feeding in order to enhance the animals’ environment and reduce the incidence of stress-related behaviours. Current feeding practices for eutherians in zoos are reviewed and then details of feeding marsupials in captivity are given for each of the three major dietary categories (carnivory, omnivory and herbivory). Speciﬁc digestive-tract adaptations and specialized dietary niches are discussed, concluding with the Koala Phascolarctos cinereus, which is one of the most specialized marsupial herbivores in its dietary niche.