Feeding habits of the Roan Antelope (Hippotragus equinus desmarest, 1804) in Gbele resource reserve.

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June, 2016
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Knowledge on the food habits of range animals is an essential tool for rangers and other range scientists for effective and sustainable management of rangeland and its resources. Such information provides a greater opportunity to assess the diet of animals and to evaluate any potential competition for forage among herbivores. However, there is no substantive data on the food habits of herbivores in Gbele Resource Reserve. The study was therefore conducted to identify forage species consumed by the roan antelope and to assess whether seasonal changes affect the diet and feeding habits of the roan antelope in the study area. It was also intended to create a database on the epidermal structures of the different plant species to aid the identification of forage species in the faecal matter of the roan antelope in the study area. Four nested quadrats of 50m by 50m and 3m by 3m were systematically laid at an interval of 200m to sample trees/browse, grasses and forbs respectively. The scraping method was used to study the foliar epidermal characteristics of plants. Thirty (30) faecal samples were collected monthly along transect lines and were identified by the shape of pellets and nearby hoof prints. Microhistological faecal analysis technique was used to analyse the faecal matter. The adaxial epidermis of grass and browse were generally characterised by little or no stomata except forbs species. Numerous stomata ranging from low-dome to high-dome subsidiary cell shape were however found on the abaxial epidermis of all plant species. Among the plant species identified in faecal matter, Andropogon gayanus, Hyparrhenia spp, Hyperthelia dissoluta, Gardenia spp and Afzelia africana were the most dominant forage species in the diet of the roan antelope. There were inter-seasonal and intra-species differences (p > 0.05) in the consumption of plant species in all the three forages (grass, browse and forbs). The proportions of the three forage types in the diet indicated that roans are mixed-feeders. The results also suggested that, seasonal changes and forage type influence the feeding habit and diet of the roan antelope. Further research should therefore be conducted over an extended period to determine the trend of the feeding habits of the roan antelope.
A thesis submitted to the Department of Wildlife and range management in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of a Master of Philosophy degree MPhil. in Wildlife and Range management,