Ecology 

Ruggiero (1990) pointed out the lack of knowledge on the Giant eland’s eco­logy in his treatise, the main idea of which can be best summed up with the fol­lowing quote „Will the world’s largest antelope, a shy inhabitant of the densely wooded savannah, become extinct without ever having been studied in the wild?“ This appeal inspired Bro-Jorgensen to start the first study of the Giant eland in the wild in 1995 in northern Cameroon and brought the basic findings on the spe­cies’ ecology and ethology (Bro-Jørgensen 1997). Presently research on Giant eland is going on in Cameroon, in the Central African Republic (Chardonnet et al. 2004) and in 2000 we began rese­arch in Senegal in the framework of a Czech development projects and the Project of the Czech Academy of Sciences.

The Giant eland’s habitat is the savannah woodland that stretches across Africa from north of the 10°N latitude at the Atlantic Coast in the west to not far north of the equator on the west bank of the Nile in the east, i.e. from Senegal to Uganda (Bro-Jørgensen 1997).

The Giant eland is predominantly a browser. Leaves, shoots, and fruits of woody plants are the three major components of its diet. Twenty-eight woody species were recorded as part of the diet of the antelope in the Niokolo Koba National Park (NKNP), for instance Boscia angustifolia, Grewia bicolor, Hymenocardia acida or Ziziphus mauritiana, and fruits of Acacia spp. and Strychnos spinosa. In addition, clear browse marks were found on the species Feretia apodanthera, Gardenia sp., Grewia flavescens, Hexalobus monopetalus, Mitragyna inermis, and Pterocarpus erinaceus. Although the rangers did not mention Boscia angustifolia as part of the Giant eland’s diet, the browse marks on this woody species were very conspicuous and corresponded observations from the Bandia Reserve (Hejcmanová et al., in prep.). Isoberlinia doka was indicated by the rangers, but they referred to their own observations in Cameroon. This species has never been recorded in the NKNP (Berhaut 1967; Anonymous 2000; authors’ observations). Microhistological analyses of the Western giant eland faeces from the wild and from the Bandia Reserve confirmed that the major components of the diet remained the same at both localities and the basic diet has not thus been particularly affected by captivity condition. The only exception was important content of additional forage (peanut hay, granules, and cotton seeds) and slightly higher content of forbs in the diet of antelopes in captivity (Podhájecká 2008). The recorded browsed species in the Bandia Reserve were trees and shrubs Acacia ataxacantha, A. nilotica, A. seyal, Combretum micranthum, Grewia bicolor, Hymenocardia acida or Ziziphus mauritiana and forbs Achyrantes aspera, Peristrophe paniculata and vine Merremia aegyptiaca. In the Fathala Reserve, 32 plant species were recorded as the part of the Western giant eland diet, 15 of them in higher quantity. The most important and most preferred plants were Acacia ataxacantha, Azadirachta indica, Combretum glutinosum, C. micranthum, C. paniculatum, Danielia olliveri, Lonchocarpus laxiflorus, Maytenus senegalensis, Prosopis africana, Pterocarpus erinaceus, Saba senegalensis, Terminalia avicennoides, T. macroptera and pods of Piliostigma thonningii. The last named species was selectively browsed when antelopes did not received pods of Acacia albida as additional food and can be therefore considered as potential additional forage from the wild (Foltýnová 2009).

 

 

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