Main content area

Seasonal variation in forages utilized by the African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) in the succulent thicket of South Africa

Tshabalala, Thulani, Dube, Sikhalazo, Lent, Peter C.
African journal of ecology 2010 v.48 no.2 pp. 438-445
Capparis, Cymbopogon pospischilii, Portulacaria, Syncerus caffer, buffaloes, cacti and succulents, diet, dry season, feces, fish, forage, forbs, grasses, nutritional adequacy, rivers, scabies, seasonal variation, understory, vegetation, wet season, South Africa
The succulent thicket of the Eastern Cape, South Africa, is characterized by densely wooded vegetation that is dominated by succulents with little understory of ephemeral and weakly perennial grasses and forbs. Studies have developed around the question: how do bulk grazers such as the African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) survive in the succulent thicket? In this study, the diet of the African buffalo at the Great Fish River Reserve (GFRR) was studied in two seasons (wet and dry). The diet profile was assessed from faecal matter, using the micro-histological analysis method. During the wet season, grass species contributed 72% to the diet while 28% was contributed by browse species. In the dry season there was a significant increase in the intake of browse by 5% (χ² = 19.94, df = 11, P < 0.05). There were species that were neglected in the wet season but became principal dietary items in the dry season, these included Setaria neglecta, Cymbopogon plurinodis, Capparis sepiaria and Portulacaria afra. Diet quality, as estimated from faecal samples, suggested that the buffalo were nutritionally stable; however, the presence of sarcoptic mange in the buffalo suggests nutritional stress.