The giant panda is part of the Ursidae family and in the order of Carnivora. Animals that are in the order of Carnivora usually eat meat but the giant panda specializes in the herbivorous diet of bamboo. The giant panda has retained the typical monogastric carnivore digestive system which is typically short and has no special compartments to retain food or any symbiotic bacteria needed to break down cellulose from the bamboo into any usable nutrients. Since the giant panda is unable to digest cellulose and lacks the necessary symbiotic bacteria for the digestion of bamboo, they have to rely on mainly the cell content through a process where the bamboo is first eaten and then passed unaltered in the digestive tract in a very short time. The giant panda must eat a large amount of bamboo daily in order to meet their energy requirements.
In an article titled “Energy Digestibility of Giant Pandas on Bamboo-Only and on Supplemented Diets”, the goal of this study was to figure out the energy digestibility of bamboo by giant pandas using digestibility trials and through analysis using bomb calorimetry. An energy budget is a numerical statement that measures the amount of energy collected and the placement of the energy to various functions. Energy budgets can be described using the equation: E=M+P+U+F (where E is the total amount of energy consumed, M is the energy used for maintenance and activity, P is the energy used for production (which includes growth and reproduction), U is the energy lost in urine, and F is the energy lost in feces.). The total energy consumed minus the energy lost in feces is the digestible energy and shows the ability of the digestive system to process consumed food.
The majority of the bamboo plant consists of culm (which is the stem) and branches. Bamboo is composed primarily of structural carbohydrates, such as cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. These are highly indigestible structures and pose an assimilation problem for pandas because they have limited ability to digest these structural carbohydrates. All of these traits combined makes bamboo a low quality food source.
For the methods the researchers conducted seven energy digestibility trials. Five of these trials were conducted at a Memphis zoo using different species of bamboo and different supplements including different brands of dried dog food, apples and sugar canes. The other two trials were conducted in an Atlanta zoo using only bamboo and the minimal amount of supplements used for treats.
The caloric content of the feed, orts (food refusal), supplements, and feces that were collected during digestibility trials was determined using a Parr Oxygen Bomb on a dry matter basis. The samples were then analyzed in duplicates with the variance in samples within 1%. The percent apparent energy digestibility was calculated with units of measurement in kilocalories (kcal) using the following equation:
Apparent digestibility % = kcal digested (kcal consumed - kcal...