Zoo diet helps improve zebra health and captive breeding

In what is said to be something of a record for Mysuru Zoo, the zebras gave birth to three foals in the space of four months. This may be the first time in recent years that multiple births of zebra foals have occurred in a short period, making it a success story of captive breeding of zebras in Indian zoos.

One of the main reasons cited by zoo management for the success of captive breeding is the introduction of a split diet for the zebras, which officials say has helped improve their health.

Mysuru Zoo has 10 zebras, which would be the largest collection in decades.

The zoo introduced the split diet – feeding the zebras once an hour in small amounts instead of twice a day – after two zebras died of stomach aches. Veterinarians found that zebras developed digestive problems when they consumed large amounts of food in a short period of time.

After studying the cases and consulting with experts, the zoo management decided to split up the scheme that was working well. The zebras are healthy.

Zoo executive director Ajit Kulkarni said The Hindu that high quality forage and alfalfa grass are fed to the animals.

Zebra keepers have been instructed to ensure that feeding habits are strictly adhered to. The same diet is also followed for rhinos.

Out of ten zebras, five are adults, two sub-adults and three foals.

“The power supplies are properly cleaned daily to ensure they are free of sand particles. After thoroughly washing the food, it is fed to the zebras. This helped prevent stone formation in the animals,” Kulkarni explained.

Shocked by the deaths of two zebras a few years ago, the zoo’s management called in equine specialists and biologists to keep the remaining zebras healthy. The two zebras who died were among four donated by the Ramat Gan Safari Park in Tel Aviv, Israel.

It may have been the first time in the zoo’s recent history that zebras succumbed to colic or abdominal pain, although it is a common disease in equine species. Another reason given for their death was nephritis.

A four-year-old female zebra had suffered from colic and had kidney disease. An equine specialist from the Mysore Race Club and two scientists from the Institute of Animal Health and Veterinary Biologicals were brought in to treat the animal. Despite the medication, he died. Another zebra also died of colic and a kidney infection. It is difficult to get close to the animals because they run fast on seeing humans and hurt themselves with anxiety. Therefore, it is not easy to treat the species when it gets sick.