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Diet and feeding ecology of the western hoolock gibbon (Hoolock hoolock) in a tropical forest fragment of Northeast India

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Abstract

Forest fragmentation alters plant species diversity and composition, and causes diverse affects on the feeding behavior of wild primates. We investigated the feeding behavior and diet of two groups of western hoolock gibbon (Hoolock hoolock) inhabiting a small isolated forest patch (21 km2) in Hollongapar Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary, Assam, Northeast India, over a year using focal animal sampling. H. hoolock adults spent, on average, 35.2% of their total annual activity budget on feeding, and fed on young leaves, mature leaves, flowers, fruits, petioles, buds and also on animal matter. There was marked seasonal variation in the proportions of the dietary items consumed. Fruits accounted for an average of 51% (range 34–71% per month) of feeding time over the year. This highly frugivorous diet may limit the ability of the species to survive in small and disturbed forest fragments. A total of 54 plant species (32 families) were consumed by the focal groups during the study period, but there were variations between months in the selection of these plant species. Non-tree species such as lianas were among the most highly selected species in the diet. Moraceae, comprising ten species, was the most dominant family among the food plants, accounting for 36% of annual feeding time. The present study presents quantitative and qualitative data on dietary composition, preference and selection of food plants of H. hoolock in a fragmented habitat, which can contribute to the restoration and manipulation of degraded habitats of H. hoolock.

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Acknowledgements

We highly acknowledge Dr. Warren Y. Brockelman for his valuable suggestions, comments and sincere effort to improve the quality of the manuscript. We extend our sincere gratitude to the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), Basistha, Guwahati, Assam, for his kind permission to carry out the research work in HGWLS, Assam. We sincerely thank forest officials of the Meleng Beat Office, HGWLS, especially Mr. Daben Borah, for his assistance during the entire fieldwork. We also thank Dr. Gitamani Dutta and Dr. Rajeev Basumatary for their valuable suggestions and help, and Mr. Arup Kumar Das, Aaranyak, for help in making the geographic information system-based map of the study area. We also thank Mr. Lakshminath Rabha, Assistant Professor, D. R. College, Golaghat for language editing.

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Borah, M., Devi, A. & Kumar, A. Diet and feeding ecology of the western hoolock gibbon (Hoolock hoolock) in a tropical forest fragment of Northeast India. Primates 59, 31–44 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10329-017-0627-6

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