Grouping behaviour and activity patterns of impala (Aepyceros melampus) in a nutrient -rich and a nutrient-poor savanna in Tanzania

Heliyon. 2022 May 9;8(5):e09386. doi: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2022.e09386. eCollection 2022 May.

ABSTRACT

African savannas are broadly categorised into nutrient-rich and nutrient-poor according to soil nutrient availability and precipitation. Soil nutrients limit plant growth in the nutrient-rich savannas, leading to little plant biomass of high nutrient concentrations. In the nutrient-poor savannas soil nutrients are depleted before plant growth ceases, resulting in large production of nutrient-poor plant biomass. Impala (Aepyceros melampus), are medium-sized antelopes occurring in both savannas, but they face feeding challenges in the nutrient-poor savannas because of high energy requirements. Activity patterns of impala are well studied, but few studies compared savannas with differing soil nutrients and animal communities. I used the scanning methods to study impala activities in a nutrient-rich savanna, the Serengeti National Park, and a nutrient-poor savanna, the Mikumi National Park in Tanzania, during the wet and dry seasons. Impala are gregarious and mixed feeders, utilising grasses during the wet season, switching to browsing during the dry season, making them good candidates for comparing savannas and seasons. The impala formed bigger groups in Mikumi during the wet season splitting during the dry season. Grazing time was higher in the wet season than in the dry season in Serengeti, but did not differ between the seasons in Mikumi. Browsing time was longer in Mikumi than Serengeti during the dry season, and longer in Serengeti than Mikumi during the wet season. Resting time was longer in Serengeti than Mikumi during the wet season, while walking time was longer in Mikumi than Serengeti during the dry season. Family groups spent longer time resting than bachelor groups in both sites. The study shows obvious differences in grouping and activity patterns of impala between the sites and the seasons. Further studies are recommended to explore the influence of savanna and season on grouping behaviour and activity patterns of herbivores.

PMID:35586331 | PMC:PMC9108877 | DOI:10.1016/j.heliyon.2022.e09386

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