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Diet of sloth bear in an agroforest landscape in eastern India

Abstract

Sloth bears are one commonly implicated conflict prone animals in agroforest landscape in India. To determine their diet, and understand the possible use of cultivated food, a study was conducted using faecal analyses in an agroforest landscape of northern Odisha, India. In total, 399 scat samples of sloth bears were collected between 2014 and 2016 covering all the seasons. Scats were analysed by their frequency of occurrence, volumetric and their importance values. Diversity indices and trophic niche breadth was also calculated to estimate the seasonal food species richness and similarity in the diet. Sloth bears consumed 15–22 taxa per season, including a number of insects and plant species. Termites were found to be the most consumed and important feed item throughout the year (Importance Value: 21.34–33.94%). Among plants, Ziziphus mauritiana was the important food source during winter (23.33%) and summer (20.29%). Cultivated plants were also consumed throughout the year; higher in monsoon (20.08%) than winter (11.7%) and summer (6.59%). The feed species richness and broader trophic niche breadth were higher during summer and winter respectively. Overall, sloth bears consumed a wide range of feed categories throughout the year and this large spectrum of feed species in the diet confirmed the nature of sloth bears as opportunistic and generalist species. Therefore, management of sloth bear population in an agroforest landscape is dependent on availability of sufficient natural habitats and food species as well as to minimize their dependence on cultivated food.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) and Chief Wildlife Warden, Odisha for granting us permission to carry out the study. We are also thankful to all the forest staff for their help in the field. Thanks to the anonymous reviewers for the suggestions in improving the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Himanshu Shekhar Palei.

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Palei, H.S., Debata, S. & Sahu, H.K. Diet of sloth bear in an agroforest landscape in eastern India. Agroforest Syst 94, 269–279 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10457-019-00389-1

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Keywords

  • Melursus ursinus
  • Diet composition
  • Feeding ecology
  • Trophic niche
  • Cultivated food