Nutritional analysis and intervention in the captive woolly monkey (Lagothric lagotricha)

K.D. Ange-van Heugten

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


Woolly monkeys (Lagothrix ssp.) are a threatened species in the wild and are extremely difficult to breed and successfully maintain in captivity. The majority of health complications in woolly monkeys (WM) may be of nutritional origin. The objectives of this thesis were to: 1) determine the current status of the captive WM, 2) isolate potential nutritional causes for primary disorders in captive WM, and 3) investigate the effects that diet nutrients have on WM serum chemistry and cortisol concentrations. Our studies showed that the number of captive WM have decreased by 11% in the past 16 years. The number of institutions holding WM decreased and the birth to death ratio is 0.65 compared to 1.26 for their close relative the spider monkey (SM) (Ateles spp.). Lack of genetic diversity in captive WM also may negatively influence their success. Serum chemistry from 30 WM housed at two zoos were similar to previously reported concentrations for howler (Aloutta sp.) and SM; however, serum glucose was above the baseline range compared to humans and SM. Fasting concentrations of glucose, insulin, fructosamine, glycated hemoglobin, circulating lipids and urinary glucose were within normal ranges in six WM with known hypertension problems compared to other monkeys and humans. Potential stressors, such as unnatural diet, can contribute to the low success of endangered primates via noted health abnormalities. Fecal and salivary cortisol concentrations in WM and SM, at multiple zoological institutions showed that zoos with the highest dietary total carbohydrates, total sugars, glucose and fruit content had the highest cortisol. Supplementation of WM and SM diets with inulin-type fructans numerically decreased fecal cortisol after 4 weeks of supplementation, primarily in SM. The lifespan and reproductive success of captive primates will improve if stressors and negative effects of nutrition on the health status can be reduced and dietary nutrients can be optimized.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • Verstegen, Martin, Promotor
  • Ferket, P., Co-promotor, External person
Award date5 Mar 2008
Place of Publication[S.l.]
Print ISBNs9789085049012
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • monkeys
  • animal nutrition
  • animal health
  • animal diseases
  • diets
  • nutrients
  • life expectancy
  • blood serum
  • blood chemistry
  • diabetes mellitus
  • hydrocortisone
  • food supplements
  • zoological gardens
  • captive animals
  • nutrition and health

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