CZAAWE Resource Article

Feeding ecology of a large social antelope in the rainforest
Publication Type 
Journal Article
Year of publication 
1999
Publication/Journal 
Oecologia
Abstract 
We studied the feeding ecology of the bongo (Tragelaphus eurycerus) in the Dzanga National Park in the rainforest of the Central African Republic to understand better the trade-off between food selectivity, ranging behaviour and social organization of a large, forest-dwelling, social antelope. Food plants and vegetation types were registered along a 311-km route travelled by bongos. Food availability was determined by identifying and counting the plants in 19 randomly chosen forest plots. Bongos showed pronounced selectivity for 26 out of 100 woody forest species. They predominantly consumed younger leaves, which suggests that high protein and low fibre content influence plant choice. In addition to leaves, bongos also ate fruits of two and flowers of one species. Furthermore, the diet was supplemented by grasses and herbs consumed on large natural licks. Such licks were regularly visited by the bongos. According to Jarman's ecological classification of antelopes, selective browsers are relatively small and live alone or in pairs to avoid competition over food. The bongo's large size and gregariousness should not allow it to survive in the rainforest as a pure selective browser. Our data suggest that the bongo relies on the opportunity to graze in bulk which it finds on the natural licks. We hypothesize that such licks either limit the distribution of bongos in other rainforest areas or allow larger group sizes than in areas without licks.