Baboon Diet: A Five-Year Study of Stability and Variability in the Plant Feeding and Habitat of the Yellow Baboons (Papio cynocephalus) of Mikumi National Park, TanzaniaNorton G.W. · Rhine R.J. · Wynn G.W. · Wynn R.D.
Department of Psychology, University of California, Riverside, Calif, USA
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The habitat and plant feeding of 64 well-habituated, individually identified adult male and female yellow baboons was studied for 5 years at Mikumi National Park, Tanzania. Variation across the years showed that a study of only one or two years would have been incomplete and misleading. The list of baboon food species obtained from Mikumi is considerably larger and more diverse than any previously reported. One to six plant parts were eaten from each of more than 180 species. The 25 most common tree genera all contained species used for food. Of the 50 most common grass, shrub and herb genera, 93% included plant foods. Using months in which a species was eaten during at least one year of the study, 21 staple species were eaten during a mean of 8.86 months and 7 were eaten in all 12 months. Although many foods were from commonly available plant species, 15 such species were only rarely eaten. The number of parts of a species eaten per month and an estimate of the amounts eaten per month both varied with temperature and rainfall, being lowest near the end of the cool, dry season. There were substantial differences from year to year in the timing and amount of food production of many species; nevertheless, the same broad feeding pattern was repeated in each of the 5 years of the study. Despite yearly variation in food availability, 14 or more staples and other common foods were eaten in any given month. If crops of many of these foods were to fail, a large number of less commonly eaten species could be substituted. Baboons are eclectic feeders that appear to be optimizing their diet by selective feeding from among a wide array of available foods in an ever-changing floristic environment.
© 1987 S. Karger AG, Basel
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