Oecologia

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 241–252

Ecological separation among browsing ungulates in Tsavo East National Park, Kenya

  • Walter Leuthold
Article

Summary

Data on food habits and habitat preferences of four browsing herbivores (black rhinoceros, giraffe, gerenuk and lesser kudu) were analyzed to assess niche width for each species and niche overlap between pairs of species. All four species depended heavily on woody plants as food, and overlap in the utilization of different plant types (trees and shrubs, herbs, grasses, etc.) was very great in three of six species paris. When individual plant species were considered, markedly less overlap was apparent. Three of the four ungulate species preferred the most densely wooded vegetation type. Overlap in habitat preferences tended to be least in those pairs of species with the greates dietary overlap, which resulted in some degree of ecological separation. This was further increased by differences in browsing level. Seasonal variations in the browsing level of the giraffe had the effect of reducing overlap with the other species in the dry season, when food was in relatively short supply. Whether or not actual competition existed among the four ungulate species could not be established; in any event, it would probably be less important than possible competition exerted by the elephant, the dominant herbivore by far in the ecosystem. The ecological separation evident among the four browsing species probably permitted them to coexist in the area before the elephant reached its present dominant position and started altering the original vegetation.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Walter Leuthold
    • 1
  1. 1.ZürichSwitzerland

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