Diet preferences of a Western giant's (Lord Derby's) eland group in a Sahelian dry habitat

in Animal Biology
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Abstract

The diet of the critically endangered Western giant eland (Tragelaphus derbianus derbianus Gray, 1847) has never been studied. We studied the food preferences of a Western giant eland group translocated from its native Sudanian habitat to a wildlife reserve in a Sahelian area in relation to the abundance of food in the new habitat. The study generated the first qualitative and quantitative data on this eland subspecies' diet. The translocated group fed only on 33 different plant species available in its new habitat. Isoberlinia doka, and Julbernadia sp., two species eaten by the other eland subspecies did not occur here. The food preference for most ligneous species did correspond to their high availability in the translocation area (like Acacia seyal, 32.56% versus 28.26% abundance in the new habitat, Acacia ataxacantha, 19.7% versus 17.03%, and Azadirachta indica, 7.11% versus 4.71%; only Grewia bicolor, 7.48% versus 10.14% did not). In contrast, the food preference for many herbaceous species did not, as some were preferred (like Merremia pentaphylla, 35.41% versus 11.01%, and Peristrophe bicalyculata, 2.58% versus 0.00%), and others avoided (like Corchorus tridens, 1.72% versus 2.20%, Cucumis melo, 0.43% versus 5.73%, and Abutilon ramosum, 0.21% versus 7.05%). The most eaten Cassia tora (42.7%) was also the most abundant (36.56%). Our data will provide conservation managers with information on how to protect the species' natural environment and to make appropriate management decisions with respect to the proclamation of protected areas or the identification of core zones, mainly for future (re)introduction of satellite populations.

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