Rainfall pattern and nutrient content influences on African elephants' debarking behaviour in Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserves, Kenya
Ihwagi FW., Chira RM., Kironchi G., Vollrath F., Douglas-Hamilton I.
The magnitude of debarking by elephants was investigated in Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserves. About 1617 plants were monitored for debarking intensities for 6months spanning through dry and wet seasons. Debarking indices ranged from no debarking at all during the wet months to complete stem girding at the height of the dry season. A negative correlation was found between rainfall and debarking indices. It was hypothesized that nutrient content of the bark influenced the magnitude to which trees were debarked. Bark samples were collected from least, moderate and intensely debarked plants throughout the 6months. These were analysed for calcium (Ca), sodium (Na), phosphorus (P), magnesium (Mg), potassium (K), nitrogen (N), iron (Fe), copper (Cu), manganese (Mn) and zinc (Zn). Significant positive correlations were found between debarking intensity and each of the nutrients N [crude protein (CP)], P, K and Zn. Bark was found to be richest in CP and Calcium. Neutral detergent fibre content was on average 67%. Monthly variations in nutrient composition were minimal. Acacia elatior, the most preferred species had significantly higher quantities of each of the four elements N, P, K and Zn than Acacia tortilis, the second most preferred woody species. © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.