Foraging Preferences and Ecological Carrying Capacity of banteng (Bos javanicus) and sambar deer (Rusa unicolor) in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, Thailand
Lanjakorn Suksawat, Ronglarp Sukmasuang, and Yongyut Trisurat
This research aimed to investigate the foraging preference, food intake, and ecological carrying capacity of ungulate species in the Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, Uthai Thani Province in Thailand. The research was conducted from October 2017 to March 2018, using twigscount method. The results showed that a total of 64 plant species, found in the dry dipterocarp forest (DDF) and mixed deciduous forest (MDF), were eaten by banteng (Bos javanicus). The result also found that 18 plant species in DDF were eaten by the sambar deer (Rusa unicolor). A food preference analysis demonstrated that 22 tree species in DDF and 19 tree species in MDF were favored by banteng. As determined by the indices, only Helicteres isora, Millettia leucantha, Helicteres angustifolia, Caesalpinia enneaphylla, Tiliacora triandra, Desmodium sp., Hyptis suaveolens, Poaceae sp, and Pterocarpus macrocarpus were in high proportion in bantengs diet. Meanwhile, 5 of the 11 species, such as Bauhinia sp., Jasminum sp., Dioscorea sp., Grewia tomentosa, and Streptocaulon juventas preferred by sambar dear, were abundant in both the forest habitats. The results also suggested that DDF provided 5,288.47 ± 1,087.26 (SE) kg of dry forage matter of plants/sq. km/month and MDF provided 4,375.56 ± 404.70 kg of dry forage matter of plants/sq. km/month. A statistical analysis indicated no significant difference between the average dry matter of food plants from DDF and MDF (t = 0.7869, p-value = 0.4391, df = 23.67). If banteng and sambar share similar resources in the area, the DDF would support 4.20 ± 1.69 bantengs/sq. km and 11.45 ± 4.61 sambars/sq. km and MDF would support 3.47 ±0.63 bantengs/sq. km and 9.47 ± 1.72 sambars/sq. km. The result indicated that the area has a very high potential to support the ungulate population, compared with the results of a previous study. The overall results also showed a high potential of the forests to protect large carnivorous species. Inside the sanctuary, we suggest that steps should be taken that focus on improving the habitats to increase the species population.