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International Journal of Ecology
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 769587, 10 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2013/769587
Research Article

Seasonal Selection Preferences for Woody Plants by Breeding Herds of African Elephants (Loxodonta africana) in a Woodland Savanna

1Department of Nature Conservation, Tshwane University of Technology, Private Bag X680, Pretoria 0001, South Africa
2Buttonwood Park Zoo, New Bedford, MA 02740, USA
3Department of Zoology and Entomology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria 0002, South Africa
4Department of Production Animal Studies, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Onderstepoort 0110, South Africa

Received 19 November 2012; Revised 25 February 2013; Accepted 25 February 2013

Academic Editor: Bruce Leopold

Copyright © 2013 J. J. Viljoen et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

To evaluate dynamics of elephant herbivory, we assessed seasonal preferences for woody plants by African elephant breeding herds in the southeastern part of Kruger National Park (KNP) between 2002 and 2005. Breeding herds had access to a variety of woody plants, and, of the 98 woody plant species that were recorded in the elephant's feeding areas, 63 species were utilized by observed animals. Data were recorded at 948 circular feeding sites (radius 5 m) during wet and dry seasons. Seasonal preference was measured by comparing selection of woody species in proportion to their estimated availability and then ranked according to the Manly alpha (α) index of preference. Animals demonstrated a selection preference in feeding on woody vegetation, and Grewia hexamita, Grewia bicolor, Grewia flavescens, and Grewia monticola were selected consistently more over all seasons. In addition, our results indicate that elephant herds have a low preference for at least some of the woody species prone to extirpation and that feeding preferences for woody plants do not account for the association of elephants and riparian fringe habitat.