Large ungulate habitat preference in Chobe National Park, Botswana
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CitationOmphile, U. J., & Powell, J. (2002). Large ungulate habitat preference in Chobe National Park, Botswana. Journal of Range Management, 55(4), 341-349.
PublisherSociety for Range Management
JournalJournal of Range Management
AbstractBoth large ungulates and wildlife tourists tend to concentrate along the Chobe River in Chobe National Park, Botswana, during the dry season causing concern for wildlife habitat and the recreational experience for wildlife viewers. Therefore, ground reconnaissance inventory data of 5 most common large ungulates were collected during the early morning and late afternoon hours along tourist routes in 5 different habitat types every second month for a period of 24 months in Chobe National Park to determine their relative, seasonal habitat preference and availability for viewing by vehicular tourists. A total of 909 herds: greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros), 285; impala (Aepyceros melampus), 209; elephant (Loxodonta africana), 200; giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis), 138; and buffalo (Syncerus caffra), 77 were observed during the 760 observation periods. The average frequency of observation of a herd of 1 or more of these 5 ungulates per habitat type was alkali flats, 3.42; floodplain grassland, 2.67; shrub savanna, 2.29; tree savanna, 1.04; and woodland, 0.30. This order of frequency of observation is highly correlated with nearness to the Chobe River, the major water source during the dry season. Elephant and giraffe were more wide-ranging than buffalo, impala, and kudu. During the dry season, all animals were seen more often on the floodplain grassland in the afternoon than in the morning. Giraffe were never seen in any habitat type in December, and impala were never seen in the woodland in any month. Our data confirm that tour operators interested primarily in providing their guests with a view of the greatest numbers of animals in a limited period of time are justified in congregating along the Chobe River during the dry season. However, as in most public wildlife reserves, Chobe National Park management is faced with the decision of how best to optimize the biological needs of Park animals and their habitat with the economic and recreational desires of Park users.