Relationships of reproductive performance indicators in black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis michaeli) with plant available moisture, plant available nutrients and woody cover

Benson Okita-Ouma*, Frank van Langevelde, Ignas M.A. Heitkönig, Peter Maina, Sip E. van Wieren, Herbert H.T. Prins

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Plant available moisture and plant available nutrients in soils influence forage quality and availability and subsequently affect reproductive performance in herbivores. However, the relationship of soil moisture, soil nutrients and woody forage with reproductive performance indicators is not well understood in mega-browsers yet these three are important in selecting suitable areas for conservation of mega-browsers. Here, the eastern black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis michaeli), a mega-browser, was studied in seven geographically distinct populations in Kenya to understand the relationships between its reproductive performance indicators and plant available moisture, plant available nutrients and woody cover. Reproductive parameters showed a complex relationship with plant available moisture and plant available nutrients. We found an increase in the predicted yearly percentage of females calving as plant available nutrients decreased in areas of high levels of plant available moisture but no relationship with plant available nutrients in areas of low plant available moisture. Age at first calving was earlier, inter-calving interval was longer and yearly percentage of females calving was higher at higher woody cover. Woody plant cover contributes positively to black rhino reproduction performance indicators, whereas plant available moisture and plant available nutrients add to the selection of conservation areas, in more subtle ways.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAfrican Journal of Ecology
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Sep 2020

Keywords

  • black rhinoceros
  • moisture
  • nutrients
  • reproductive performance
  • savannah
  • woody cover

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