While vitamin D deficiency is a public health concern in humans, comparatively little is known about vitamin D levels in non-human primates. Vitamin D plays a crucial role in overall health and its deficiency is associated with a range of disorders, including cardiovascular disease, which is a leading cause of death in great apes. Serum samples (n = 245) from chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) housed at 32 European zoos were measured for 25-hydroxyvitamin D2, 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 and total 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25-OHD) using liquid chromatography and tandem mass spectrometry. Of these samples, 33.1% indicated inadequate vitamin D status, using the human reference interval (25-OHD < 50 nmol/L). The season of the year, health status of the animal, and the provision of daily outdoor access had a significant effect on vitamin D status. This is the first large-scale study on vitamin D status of non-human great apes in human care. Inadequate 25-OHD serum concentrations are widespread in the chimpanzee population in Europe and could be a risk factor for the development of idiopathic myocardial fibrosis, a major cause of mortality in this species, as well as other diseases. A review of husbandry and nutrition practices is recommended to ensure optimal vitamin D supply for these endangered animals.
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