Journal of Ethology

, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 421–428 | Cite as

Spatial properties of a forest buffalo herd and individual positioning as a response to environmental cues and social behaviour

  • Mario Melletti
  • M. M. Delgado
  • Vincenzo Penteriani
  • Marzia Mirabile
  • Luigi Boitani


Many animals aggregate into organized temporary or stable groups under the influence of biotic and abiotic factors, and some studies have shown the influence of habitat features on animal aggregation. This study, conducted from 2002 to 2004 in the Dzanga-Ndoki National Park, Central African Republic, studied a herd of forest buffaloes (Syncerus caffer nanus) to determine whether spatial aggregation patterns varied by season and habitat. Our results show that both habitat structure and season influenced spatial aggregation patterns. In particular, in open habitats such as clearings, the group covered a larger area when resting and was more rounded in shape compared to group properties noted in forest during the wet season. Moreover, forest buffaloes had a more aggregated spatial distribution when resting in clearings than when in the forest, and individual positions within the herd in the clearing habitat varied with age and sex. In the clearings, the adult male (n = 24) was generally, on most occasions, located in the centre of the herd (n = 20), and he was observed at the border only four times. In contrast, females (n = 80) occupied intermediate (n = 57), peripheral (n = 14) and central positions (n = 9) within the group. Juveniles (n = 77) also occurred in intermediate (n = 64) and peripheral positions (n = 13). Based on these results, we concluded that habitat characteristics and social behaviour can have relevant effects on the spatial distribution of animals within a group.


Animal aggregation Forest buffalo Group structure SADIE Spatial pattern Syncerus 



We thank the Director of the Dzanga-Shanga Project and his staff. Particular thanks go to F. Maisels, A. Turkalo, A. Todd, C. Oertle, D. Renner, L. Steel, L. Korte, G. Schwarzer, A. Bruckman, Any, and the Dzanga-Ndoki National Park Guards and WWF staff in Bangui. Many thanks to the Bai-Hokou staff and the BaAka trackers for their support during the study period. We are grateful to I. Krugersberg for useful comments on manuscript. M.M. thanks his family for their constant support during the stay in Africa. A special thanks to C. Cipolletta and D. Greer for assistance throughout the study. Thanks to G. Tortellini and L. Rossi Melletti for their moral support in the past years. This paper is dedicated to the memory of Benzino, Mokoko, and David (BaAka trackers), whose support was crucial during the field work.


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Copyright information

© Japan Ethological Society and Springer 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mario Melletti
    • 1
  • M. M. Delgado
    • 2
  • Vincenzo Penteriani
    • 2
    • 3
  • Marzia Mirabile
    • 4
  • Luigi Boitani
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Animal and Human BiologyUniversity of Rome “La Sapienza”RomeItaly
  2. 2.Department of Conservation BiologyEstación Biológica de Doñana, CSICSevilleSpain
  3. 3.Finnish Museum of Natural History, Zoological MuseumUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  4. 4.High Institute for Environmental Protection and ResearchRomeItaly

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