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Feeding preferences and nutritional niche of wild water buffalo (Bubalus arnee) in Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, Nepal.

Citation

Hecker, Lee; Sherstha, Tej; Aryal, Achyut; Coogan, Sean (2020), Feeding preferences and nutritional niche of wild water buffalo (Bubalus arnee) in Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, Nepal., Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.vt4b8gtp0

Abstract

We sought to further the understanding of how an animal’s foraging ecology is influenced by their feeding preferences and nutritional composition of forage items. Our research identified these aspects of wild water buffalo’s (Bubalus arnee) foraging ecology in Nepal. First, we sought to describe the foraging preferences of wild water buffalo in terms of the relative abundance of functional forage groups (i.e., forbs, graminoids, and browse) in their diet. We observed signs of wild water buffalo foraging on 54 plant species. We found wild water buffalo consume graminoids and forbs 2-3 times more frequently than browse items. Then, we investigated the composition of nutrients (i.e., carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids) in wild water buffalo diets to develop an estimate of their realized nutrient niche. Of the 54 plant species foraged, we analyzed the nutritional composition of the 16 most frequently foraged species. We found the realized nutrient niche of wild water buffalo is dominated by carbohydrates, but there was a positive correlation between the relative frequency of foraged items and protein content. Our study contributes important information on the feeding preference and nutritional content of the endangered wild water buffalo. Our results can be used to inform conservation and management strategies of this species in wild. Selection of potential translocation sites should include key species that are higher in protein content and frequently forages by wild water buffalo (e.g., Typha elephantina) to help mitigate human-wildlife conflicts. Further, we provide valuable insight into the mechanisms influencing the foraging ecology of wild herbivores.

Methods

These data describe the relative frequency of plants foraged in Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, Nepal and the macronutrient content of those plants. Fifty foraging plots were established throughout the reserve where signs of wild water buffalo (Bablus arnee) presence were observed. Plants that were foraged by buffalo were clipped and sent to Nepal Environmental and Scientific Services laboratory in Kathmandu, Nepal and proximate analysis estimated macronutrient content using standardized methods described by the Association of Official Agricultural Chemists. The authors then converted nutrients to units of metabolizable energy using conversion factors of 9 kcal/g for lipids, and 4 kcal/g for carbohydrates and proteins.