Seasonal Diet and habitat preferences of cattle (Bos Indicus), Kongoni (Alcephalus buselaphus), and Wildebest(Connochaetes taurinus) grazing on a common range
The feeding habits of cattle (Bos indicus), kongoni (Alcephalus buselaphus) and wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) whether as single species or in combination with other animal species on the same range have been studied by several researchers in different environments. Generally these studies conclude that animals do select their diets from an of array plants depending on what is available to them and the prevailing conditions. This thesis is the result of a study conducted at Game Ranching Ltd. situated at the Athi Kapiti Plains, Kenya, between January and August 1993, to determine the diet and habitat preferences of cattle, kongoni and wildebeest. The following six vegetation types (habitats) occur in the ranch; Themeda grassland, Balanites glabra tree grassland, Balanites - Acacia tree grassland, Acacia drepanolobium dwarf tree grassland, Acacia woodland and Acacia xanthophloea bushland. The diet preference by the three herbivores was determined by using microhistological analysis technique. The three dominant grasses in the ranch Themeda triandra, Digitaria macroblephara and Penisetum mezianum also formed the major diets of the animals. The browse component of the diets increased during the dry season by about 100% irrespective of the animal species, with cattle always having twice as much browse as the wild v herbivores. The animals, however, selected similar diets in terms of plant species during both seasons. Dietary overlaps were always above 75%, but higher during the dry season, than during the wet season. The overlaps were lower between cattle and wild herbivores than between the wild herbivores. During the wet season Balanites glabra tree grassland was the most preferred while all other habitats had negative preference indices, with Acacia woodland and Acacia xanthophloea bushland habitats being avoided completely by kongoni and wildebeest. During the dry season the two herbivores shifted their habitat preferences to Balanites - Acacia tree grassland habitat, with Acacia xanthophloea being avoided completely. Balanites - Acacia grassland seem to be the best available habitat in the ranch as it is the habitat upon which kongoni and wildebeest depend for their survival during the dry season. Balanites glabra grassland, however is the most preferred habitat but is only available during the wet season.