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Digestive Microbiology of Captive Cheetahs

Feeding mismanagement has been identified as a possible factor contributing to the development of gastrointestinal and metabolic diseases in captive cheetahs. The principal investigator’s previous research determined significant differences in the production of potentially beneficial and toxic metabolites in cheetahs fed whole prey compared with those eating only meat. These results indicate that the undigested portion of a natural carnivorous diet may play a crucial role in maintaining intestinal health. To optimize the health of cheetahs in captivity, it is crucial to address the current lack of knowledge on the diversity and dynamics of the functional intestinal microbial ecosystem in cheetahs. In this study a set of protocols for microbiological analysis of fecal samples of cheetahs will be optimized and used to obtain a taxonomic inventory of the predominant intestinal microbiota. The gathered knowledge will then be used to improve feeding management and thus help improve the health of captive cheetahs.

Dr. Anne A.M.J. Becker, Ghent University, Belgium, Fellowship Training Grant