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Plant selection and avoidance by the Bornean elephant (Elephas maximus borneensis) in tropical forest: does plant recovery rate after herbivory influence food choices?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 April 2014

Megan English*
Affiliation:
Centre for Biodiversity and Restoration Ecology, School of Biological Sciences, New Kirk Building, Kelburn Parade, Kelburn Campus, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, 6012
Graeme Gillespie
Affiliation:
Zoology Department, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, 3010, Australia
Marc Ancrenaz
Affiliation:
HUTAN Elephant Conservation Unit and Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Project, Sukau, Kinabatangan, Sabah, Malaysia
Sulaiman Ismail
Affiliation:
HUTAN Elephant Conservation Unit and Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Project, Sukau, Kinabatangan, Sabah, Malaysia
Benoit Goossens
Affiliation:
Danau Girang Field Centre, c/o Sabah Wildlife Department, Wisma Muis, 88100 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia Organisms and Environment Division, School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, Sir Martin Evans Building, Museum Avenue, Cardiff CF10 3AX, UK Sabah Wildlife Department, Wisma Muis, 88100 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Sen Nathan
Affiliation:
Sabah Wildlife Department, Wisma Muis, 88100 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Wayne Linklater
Affiliation:
Centre for Biodiversity and Restoration Ecology, School of Biological Sciences, New Kirk Building, Kelburn Parade, Kelburn Campus, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, 6012 Centre for African Conservation Ecology, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa
*
1Corresponding author. Email: Megan.English@vuw.ac.nz

Abstract:

The plant vigour hypothesis proposes that herbivores should favour feeding on more vigorously growing plants or plant modules. Similarly, we would expect herbivores to favour plants that regrow vigorously after herbivory. Larger animals, like elephants, may also select plant species relative to their availability and prefer species with larger growth forms in order to meet their intake requirements. The food preferences of the Bornean elephant (Elephas maximus borneensis) in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, Sabah, Malaysia, were investigated along 12 transects in areas where elephants were recently sighted feeding. One hundred and eighty-two plants were eaten and 185 plants were measured for species availability along transects. Species vigour was determined by the monthly regrowth in new shoot length after elephant feeding and the number of new shoots produced on each plant. Measurements were carried out on each plant for 9 mo or until the new shoot was eaten. Plant sizes were determined from their basal diameter. The Bornean elephant did not prefer more vigorous species or species with larger growth forms. New shoots did not grow longer on preferred than avoided species. Additionally, unlike other elephants that live in a forest environment, the Bornean elephant preferred species from the Poaceae (specifically Phragmites karka and Dinochloa scabrida) over other plant types including gingers, palms, lianas and woody trees.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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References

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