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BMC Ecol. 2018 Feb 6;18(1):4. doi: 10.1186/s12898-018-0161-4.

Dietary flexibility of Bale monkeys (Chlorocebus djamdjamensis) in southern Ethiopia: effects of habitat degradation and life in fragments.

Author information

1
Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), Department of Biosciences, University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1066, Blindern, 0316, Oslo, Norway. addisumekonnen@gmail.com.
2
Department of Zoological Sciences, Addis Ababa University, P.O. Box: 1176, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. addisumekonnen@gmail.com.
3
Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), Department of Biosciences, University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1066, Blindern, 0316, Oslo, Norway.
4
Department of Anthropology and Environmental Studies Program, California State University Fullerton, Fullerton, CA, 92834, USA.
5
Department of Zoological Sciences, Addis Ababa University, P.O. Box: 1176, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Understanding the effects of habitat modification on the feeding strategies of threatened species is essential to designing effective conservation management plans. Bale monkeys (Chlorocebus djamdjamensis) are endemic to the rapidly shrinking montane forests of the southern Ethiopian Highlands. Most populations inhabit continuous bamboo forest subsisting largely on the young leaves and shoots of a single species of bamboo. Because of habitat disturbance in recent decades, however, there are now also several dozen small populations inhabiting isolated forest fragments where bamboo has been degraded. During 12-months, we assessed Bale monkey responses to habitat degradation by comparing habitat composition, phenological patterns, and feeding ecology in a largely undisturbed continuous forest (Continuous groups A and B) and in two fragments (Patchy and Hilltop groups).

RESULTS:

We found that habitat quality and food availability were much lower in fragments than in continuous forest. In response to the relative scarcity of bamboo in fragments, Bale monkeys spent significantly less time feeding on the young leaves and shoots of bamboo and significantly more time feeding on non-bamboo young leaves, fruits, seeds, stems, petioles, and insects in fragments than in continuous forest. Groups in fragments also broadened their diets to incorporate many more plant species (Patchy: ≥ 47 and Hilltop: ≥ 35 species)-including several forbs, graminoids and cultivated crops-than groups in continuous forest (Continuous A: 12 and Continuous B: 8 species). Nevertheless, bamboo was still the top food species for Patchy group (30% of diet) as well as for both continuous forest groups (mean = 81%). However, in Hilltop group, for which bamboo was especially scarce, Bothriochloa radicans (Poaceae), a grass, was the top dietary species (15% of diet) and bamboo ranked 10th (2%).

CONCLUSIONS:

We demonstrate that Bale monkeys are more dietarily flexible than previously thought and able to cope with some degradation of their primary bamboo forest habitat. However, crop raiding and other terrestrial foraging habits more common among fragment groups may place them at greater risk of hunting by humans. Thus, longitudinal monitoring is necessary to evaluate the long-term viability of Bale monkey populations in fragmented habitats.

KEYWORDS:

Bamboo; Continuous forest; Feeding ecology; Fragmented forest; Human-wildlife conflict; Specialist folivore

PMID:
29409472
PMCID:
PMC5801891
DOI:
10.1186/s12898-018-0161-4
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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