European Journal of Wildlife Research

, Volume 57, Issue 3, pp 495–503 | Cite as

Ageing of ungulate pellets in semi-arid landscapes: how the shade of colour can refine pellet-group counts

  • Fabrice HibertEmail author
  • Daniel Maillard
  • Hervé Fritz
  • Mathieu Garel
  • Hama Noma Abdou
  • Peter Winterton
Original Paper


Pellet-group counts can be useful in monitoring ungulate population trends, particularly in elusive species. In semi-arid areas, ambient conditions conserve the pellets during the dry season. Thus, dating of accumulated pellet groups should be helpful in approximating the numbers of ungulates present during any chosen part of the dry season. The aims of this study were to confirm that the decay rate of pellet groups was low during the dry season, to identify the major causes of decay and to test the usefulness of criteria, easily measurable in the field, in dating pellets. Every month during the dry season pellet groups of five African savanna ungulates were collected fresh and deposited on bare ground at an experimental site. The levels of hardness, cracking, scattering, attack by insects and shade of colour of the pellets were monitored until the rainy season started. As expected, only a few pellet groups decayed completely during the dry season. The pellets’ shade of colour was the best criterion to date them. We discuss pellet colour as an original tool for monitoring the trends in ungulate use of target areas in semi-arid environments.


Africa Faecal pellet Indirect surveys Population monitoring Savanna 



This research was supported by an EC fund through the programme Regional Park W (Ecopas), by the CIRAD and by the Francophone University Agency. We thank the Niger W National Park managers, the ECOPAS scientific coordinators and the population of the Tapoa. We are also grateful to Nicolas Morellet and Gwenaël Leday for their statistical advice and to Marie-Noël de Visscher and Tanguy Daufresne for their comments on previous drafts.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fabrice Hibert
    • 1
    Email author
  • Daniel Maillard
    • 2
  • Hervé Fritz
    • 3
  • Mathieu Garel
    • 4
  • Hama Noma Abdou
    • 5
  • Peter Winterton
    • 6
  1. 1.Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement, Département Environnements et SociétésMontpellier cedex 5France
  2. 2.Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune SauvageJuvignacFrance
  3. 3.Université de Lyon; Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1; CNRS UMR 5558, Laboratoire de biométrie et biologie évolutiveVilleurbanne cedexFrance
  4. 4.Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune SauvageGièresFrance
  5. 5.Association des guides du Parc National du W du NigerSayNiger
  6. 6.Université Paul SabatierToulouse cedex 4France

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