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University of Bristol (2005)

The foraging behaviour of Burchell’s zebra (Equus burchelli antiquorum)

Brooks Christopher John

Titre : The foraging behaviour of Burchell’s zebra (Equus burchelli antiquorum)

Auteur Brooks Christopher John

Université de soutenance : University of Bristol

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) 2005

Habitat loss through human expansion and the spread of pastoralism is a cause for concern in many parts of Africa. If wildlife species are to be effectively conserved there is a need for reliable predictions of their resource requirements and spatial distribution patterns in harmony with their population dynamics. In this thesis, I examined the feeding behaviour and movements of Burchell’s zebra (Equus burchelli) during the dry season, in the Makgadikgadi, Botswana. Global positioning system (GPS) collars were used to record zebra’s patterns of movement and spatial distribution. These patterns were related to resource availability and environmental constraints. Limited availability of water during the dry season forced zebra to behave as central place foragers around waterholes. Environmental constraints associated with central place foraging restricted their distribution, but spatial patterns of distribution within these limits were regulated by a selective preference for sward of high biomass, which was maintained across spatial and temporal scales. Zebra used area-restricted search paths to locate preferred resources and improved their foraging efficiency by revisiting distinct foraging patches with potentially greater resource quality. Foraging time of zebra was a fixed constraint, but their physiological dependency on water was elastic and stretched towards its limit. This permitted zebra to expand their foraging radius into the National Park, rather than utilising potential foraging resources outside of the Park. Cattle had an overlapping resource use with zebra and possibly excluded them from foraging resources closer to waterholes. The distribution of water supplies must be improved along the length of the Boteti riverbed to improve the long-term viability of the Makgadikgadi zebra population. This would reduce the current dependency of zebra on the centrally placed waterholes around Kumagha. Failure to do this will leave zebra vulnerable to poor resource availability during drought and after fires.


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