Reducing potential sources of sampling bias when quantifying the diet of the African wild dog through scat analysis
Davies-Mostert HT., Mills MGL., Kent V., MacDonald DW.
To develop guidelines for the collection of independent field samples of scats for the quantification of wild dog (Lycaon pictus) diet we determined the passage rates of different wild dog prey items from feeding trials on a captive pack held at Marakele National Park, Limpopo Province. The minimum time to first detection was 5.5 hours after feeding (S.E. ± 1.52, n = 5) and prey items remained in the gut for an average of 79.4 hours (S.E. ± 6.00, n = 3). Differential passage rates of prey species were not pronounced. Observed passage rates were used to devise a sampling protocol for scats collected during a field study where scats were separated by a minimum period of 120 hours to ensure independence of samples. Comparison of the percentage occurrence of prey species in field-collected scats with the percentage occurrence from direct observations of kills illustrated the tendency for small prey to be underrepresented in the latter. However, the strong correlation between percentage occurrences in diet as determined by the two methods (rs = 0.85, P < 0.01, 13 d.f.) suggests that both methods can reliably determine the relative importance of prey in the diets of obligate carnivores such as wild dogs. The determination of maximum passage rates and subsequent guidelines for collection of independent faecal samples in the field could be a valuable tool for reducing inherent biases in carnivore diet studies.