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7 Nutritional concerns associated with keeping lions in captivity

The welfare conditions identified by the Blood Lions and World Animal Protection research teams were categorised according to a globally accepted animal welfare model – Mellor’s Five Domains Model.

In the Nutrition Domain, 7 conditions were linked to nutritional concerns in keeping lions in captivity globally, such as malnutrition, obesity, dehydration, and vitamin deficiencies.

Fulfilling the optimal dietary requirements for lions in captivity poses a significant management challenge and if not done correctly, can lead to anaemia, dehydration, obesity, emaciation and nutrient deficiencies. These in turn can lead to diseases, such as poor oral health, malformation and spinal cord degeneration, which are part of the Health Domain

The NSPCA – National Council of SPCAs continuously inspects commercial captive lion breeding facilities in South Africa and regularly encounters the following nutrition related issues:

  • Inappropriate diet for adult lions, e.g. rotting meat or chicken instead of a carnivore specialised diet; 
  • Feeding cubs dairy or Esbilac instead of specialised milk formulas, and not adding supplements to ensure the necessary nutrition; 
  • Lack of adjustment in diet for over- and underweight animals.

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