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Termitaria as preferred browsing patches for black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) in Chipinge Safari Area, Zimbabwe

  • Justice Muvengwi (a1) (a2), Hilton G. T. Ndagurwa (a3) (a4), Tatenda Nyenda (a2) and Innocent Mlambo (a2)
Abstract:

This study tested the hypothesis that the black rhinoceros browses more on termitaria than off termitaria vegetation due to elevated soil and foliar nutrient levels on termitaria. We investigated the role of termitaria in providing nutrient-rich forage for the black rhinoceros, by comparing the preference (selection ratio) for vegetation occurring on and off termitaria, and then testing its relationship with foliar nutrient concentrations. Soil nutrients, bite intensity, tree species diversity, vegetation density, canopy cover and basal area were also surveyed on and off termitaria. We sampled 25 termite mounds together with their corresponding control plots in Chipinge Safari Area, Zimbabwe. Soil and foliar N, P, K, Ca and Na concentrations were greater on termitaria than off termitaria, with approximately twice the concentration of these nutrients. Browse preference followed the between-site differences in soil and foliar nutrient concentrations, with higher selection ratios and bite intensities for vegetation on termitaria than off termitaria. Diospyros quiloensis was the most preferred browse species whilst Combretum imberbe, Kigelia africana and Strychnos innocua were the least. In conclusion, the black rhino preferred vegetation on termitaria to that in the surrounding matrix, and utilization of vegetation can be influenced by the soil substrate on which tree species grow.

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Corresponding author
1Corresponding author. Email: justicemuvengwi@yahoo.co.uk.
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Journal of Tropical Ecology
  • ISSN: 0266-4674
  • EISSN: 1469-7831
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