The objective of this study was to determine the dietary protein requirements of the Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) between the ages of 5 – 8 months, and to compare the results with documented protein requirements of the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis). This was achieved by feeding the crocodiles 4 diets with varying amounts of crude protein (CP), including 62%, 56.6%, 51.6% and 46%. All four diets were iso-energetic with a metabolisable energy to protein ratio of 25.85KJ/g. The highest protein diet contained 44% raw minced chicken and 46.9% fish meal with minimal contribution (of 6.4%) made from vegetable protein sources (full fat soya). The lowest protein diet was made up of a majority of vegetable protein (30% soya bean oilcake, 9.8% full fat soya and 17.2% maize meal) and some contribution from protein of animal origin (4.3% carcass meal and 35% fish meal). This study was carried out for 12 weeks during the crocodiles first year of life. Body mass, total body length, head length and snout to vent length were measured five times at 3 weekly intervals. Twenty representative crocodiles in a pen of 200 were individually tagged for the duration of the trial. As there were 3 replicates for each of the 4 treatment diets, 240 crocodiles in 12 pens were tagged. During the early phase of the study, it was observed that crocodiles on the 46% CP treatment diet were not performing well, and that most of the crocodiles on this diet were losing mass. This treatment diet was discontinued at 9 weeks into the trial for both financial and ethical reasons. The remaining three diets were tested for the full 12 weeks. Chromium oxide was mixed into the diets at two time periods during the trial to determine the protein, energy and dry matter digestibility. It was determined that the 46%, the 51.6%, the 56.6% and the 62% CP diets had a digestible protein (DP) content of 246.44 g/kg, 294.80 g/kg, 381.32 g/kg and 468.65 g/kg and a digestibility coefficient of 53.50%, 57.00%, 69.15% and 75.65% respectively. Performance of crocodiles on the 46% CP treatment diet was found to be lower in all measurement categories than crocodiles on the three higher protein diets. However, crocodiles on the 62% CP treatment diet outperformed all the crocodiles (on all measurement criteria) on the lower protein diets. The poor performance of crocodiles on the lowest protein diet correlates with previous research indicating that crocodilians are unable to perform optimally when the majority of the diet’s protein is made up of vegetable protein sources. It was determined that juvenile American alligators would grow at optimal levels when the diet contained a DP content of 450 g/kg. As the Nile crocodiles in this study performed the best when the diet contained a DP value of 468.65 g/kg, it was concluded that juvenile Nile crocodiles have the same range of protein requirements as that determined for juvenile American alligators.
Dissertation (MSc(Agric))--University of Pretoria, 2011.