Feeding preferences of the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) in Nepal

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Abstract

Background: Nepal provides habitat for approximately 100-125 wild Asian elephants (Elephas maximus). Although a small proportion of the world population of this species, this group is important for maintaining the genetic diversity of elephants and conservation of biodiversity in this region. Knowledge of foraging patterns of these animals, which is important for understanding their habitat requirements and for assessing their habitat condition, is lacking for the main areas populated by elephants in Nepal. This study investigates the feeding preferences of the Asian elephant in Parsa Wildlife Reserve (PWR) and Chitwan National Park (CNP), Nepal. Result: Fifty-seven species of plants in 25 families were found to be eaten by Asian elephants, including 12 species of grasses, five shrubs, two climbers, one herb and 37 species of trees. The species that contributed the greatest proportion of the elephant's diet were Spatholobus parviflorus (20.2%), Saccharum spontaneum (7.1%), Shorea robusta (6.3), Mallotus philippensis (5.7%), Garuga pinnata (4.3%). Saccharum bengalensis (4.2%), Cymbopogan spp (3.7%), Litsea monopetala (3.6) and Phoenix humilis (2.9%). The preference index (PI) showed that browsed species were preferred during the dry season, while browsed species and grasses were both important food sources during the rainy season. Elephants targeted leaves and twigs more than other parts of plants (P < 0.05). Conclusion: This study presents useful information on foraging patterns and baseline data for elephant habitat management in the PWR and CNP in the south central region of Nepal.

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Koirala, R. K., Raubenheimer, D., Aryal, A., Pathak, M. L., & Ji, W. (2016). Feeding preferences of the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) in Nepal. BMC Ecology, 16(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12898-016-0105-9

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