Myanmar Timber Elephant Project

Nutritional content of milk from free-living Asian elephants reported for the first time by Dierenfeld et al.

April 29, 2020

Dierenfeld, E.S.; Han, Y.A.M.; Mar, K.U.; Aung, A.; Soe, A.T.; Lummaa, V.; Lahdenperä, M. 2020: Milk Composition of Asian Elephants (Elephas maximus) in a Natural Environment in Myanmar during Late Lactation. Animals 202010, 725.

Abstract: The nutritional content of milk from free-living Asian elephants has not previously been reported, despite being vital for better management of captive populations. This study analyzed both milk composition and consumed plant species of Asian elephants managed in their natural environment in Myanmar. Longitudinal samples (n = 36) were obtained during both the wet and the dry season from six mature females in mid to late lactation in 2016 and 2017. Milk composition averaged 82.44% water, with 17.56% total solids containing 5.23% protein, 15.10% fat, 0.87% ash, and 0.18 g/mL vitamin E. Solids and protein increased with lactation month. Total protein in milk was higher during the wet vs. the dry season. Observed factors linked with maternal (age, parity, size and origin) and calf traits (sex) had significant associations with milk nutrient levels. Primary forages consumed contained moderate protein and fiber. Higher dietary protein during the wet season (11–25%) compared to the dry season (6–19%) may be linked with increased milk protein observed. Our results call for further field studies of milk and diet composition, over entire seasons/lactation periods, and across maternal and calf traits, to improve feeding management, with an overall goal of maximized health and survival.

Read more: Animals 2020, 10 (725)