Foraging behaviour of ruminant and non-ruminant grazers as a function of habitat heterogeneity in Telperion and Ezemvelo Nature Reserves(Ezemvelo section)
An understanding of animal foraging behaviour is key to proper management strategies that ensure the survival and species persistence within nature reserves. Here the foraging behaviour of ruminant (hartebeest and wildebeest) and non-ruminant (zebra) grazers were observed and compared between two areas with distinctively different vegetation structure, the natural vegetation (NL) and previously cultivated land (PCL), in Telperion and Ezemvelo Nature Reserves (TENR). Natural vegetation was dominated by tall grass of low greenness with patches of short to very short grass, while the PCL was dominated by areas of very short to short grass (grazing lawns) with patches of medium to tall grass. Step rate (SR) and foraging time spent per feeding station (FTFS) were used as indices of foraging behaviour. I also measured the characteristics of the grass sward (grass height and greenness) grazed on by the three species. Both ruminants had high SR and low FTFS. Despite having similar SR and FTFS, ruminants grazed on grass of different height. Hartebeest preferred tall grass with low greenness content (0-10%), while wildebeest preferred short to very short grass and were significantly selective of areas with relative high greenness (11-50%) on PCL, more so than any other species. Compared to ruminant grazers the non-ruminant (zebra) had low SR and high FTFS and like hartebeest they grazed on medium to tall grass of very low greenness content (0 10%). This study did not reveal any difference in feeding behaviour within species between the two study sites. The finding of this study confirms that ruminant and non-ruminant species have different foraging behaviour, and habitat heterogeneity is necessary for the reserve to support different grazing species. Key words: digestive physiology, feeding station, step rate, wildebeest, hartebeest, zebra
A research report submitted to the Faculty of Science, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Resource Conservation Biology. Johannesburg, 29 May 2017.
Hamunyela, Ndamonenghenda (2017) Foraging behaviour of ruminant and non-ruminant grazers as a function of habitat heterogeneity in Telperion and Ezemvelo Nature Reserves(Ezemvelo section), University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, <http://hdl.handle.net/10539/23727>