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Plains zebra (Equus quagga) behaviour in a restored population reveals seasonal resource limitations

By Charli de Vos, Alison J. Leslie, Jason I. Ransom

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Abstract

A once abundant species, plains zebra (Equus quagga), is declining across much of sub-Saharan Africa. Reintroduction efforts at Majete Wildlife Reserve, Malawi, have resulted in rapid population increases, but little is known about how such populations resemble natural populations socially or behaviourally, and what those attributes may reveal about restoration success. Incorporating behavioural knowledge into conservation efforts is an important tool for managing the effects of habitat fragmentation and resource competition. The aim of this study was to quantify the daylight time budget of both family and bachelor bands of reintroduced plains zebra to determine if such behaviours resembled those found in natural populations, and to provide insights into seasonal behavioural patterns that could inform management strategies. We found that feeding occupied the largest percentage (mean = 41.8 % ± 2.36) of family band daylight time budgets, followed by resting (18.5 % ± 2.21), locomotion (10.9 % ± 1.05), vigilance (7.5 % ± 0.92), maintenance (2.7 % ± 0.92) and social behaviour (1.4 % ± 0.33). Bachelor bands spent the majority of their daylight time being vigilant (27.0 % ± 2.72), followed by locomotion (21.0 % ± 2.05), feeding (18.4 % ± 2.32), resting (15.4 % ± 2.85), maintenance (6.4 % ± 1.86) and social behaviour (2.4 % ± 0.68). The time budgets of zebra in this restored population are generally congruent with those reported in natural populations of plains zebra. Seasonal variation in time spent feeding and resting, locomotion, and change in body condition, however, suggest that dry season resources may negatively impact zebra in the miombo savannah woodlands. These results provide important insights into resource implications for zebra in an ecological system with many large ungulate species that compete for forage, and may assist managers with resource management strategies.

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 224
Pages 104936
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2020.104936
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Tags
  1. Animal behavior
  2. Conservation
  3. Horses