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Elephant (Loxodonta africana) diets in Kruger National Park, South Africa: spatial and landscape differences


Codron, J; Lee-Thorp, J A; Sponheimer, M; Codron, D; Grant, R C; de Ruiter, D J (2006). Elephant (Loxodonta africana) diets in Kruger National Park, South Africa: spatial and landscape differences. Journal of Mammalogy, 87(1):27-34.

Abstract

African elephants (Loxodonta africana) are mixed feeders, incorporating varying proportions of grass and browse into their diets. Disagreement persists as to whether elephants preferentially graze or browse, and the degree to which the consumption of these foods is a reflection of their local availability. We used stable carbon isotope analysis of feces to investigate seasonal and spatial variation in the diets of elephants from Kruger National Park (KNP), South Africa. Elephant diets (overall average ;35% grass) are shown to be distinct from those of grazers (.90% grass), browsers (,5% grass), and another mixed-feeder, the impala (Aepyceros melampus; ;50% grass). Fecal d13C values suggest that elephant populations from northern KNP eat more grass (;40%) during the dry season than do their southern counterparts (;10%). The wet-season diets of elephants from northern and southern KNP include similar amounts of grass (;50%), because elephants in the south, but not in the north, ate significantly more grass during this time. Although habitat differences in KNP appear to account partially for variations in elephant diets, the specific influence of each habitat type on diet selectivity is not clear. The homogeneity of woody vegetation in the north (dominated by Colophospermum mopane ‘‘shrubveld’’) may deter browsing and force elephants in this area to opt for alternative food sources (grass) throughout the seasonal cycle.

African elephants (Loxodonta africana) are mixed feeders, incorporating varying proportions of grass and browse into their diets. Disagreement persists as to whether elephants preferentially graze or browse, and the degree to which the consumption of these foods is a reflection of their local availability. We used stable carbon isotope analysis of feces to investigate seasonal and spatial variation in the diets of elephants from Kruger National Park (KNP), South Africa. Elephant diets (overall average ;35% grass) are shown to be distinct from those of grazers (.90% grass), browsers (,5% grass), and another mixed-feeder, the impala (Aepyceros melampus; ;50% grass). Fecal d13C values suggest that elephant populations from northern KNP eat more grass (;40%) during the dry season than do their southern counterparts (;10%). The wet-season diets of elephants from northern and southern KNP include similar amounts of grass (;50%), because elephants in the south, but not in the north, ate significantly more grass during this time. Although habitat differences in KNP appear to account partially for variations in elephant diets, the specific influence of each habitat type on diet selectivity is not clear. The homogeneity of woody vegetation in the north (dominated by Colophospermum mopane ‘‘shrubveld’’) may deter browsing and force elephants in this area to opt for alternative food sources (grass) throughout the seasonal cycle.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:05 Vetsuisse Faculty > Veterinary Clinic > Department of Small Animals
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
630 Agriculture
Date:2006
Deposited On:12 Feb 2010 15:20
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 13:37
Publisher:American Society of Mammalogists
ISSN:0022-2372
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1644/05-MAMM-A-017R1.1
Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-25349

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