Buffalo Herd Structure and its Repercussions for Condition of Individual African Buffalo Cows

HHT Prins

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    40 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    The African buffalo Syncerus caffer was studied in Lake Manyara National Park, Tanzania. Emphasis was placed on the study of (individual) buffalo cows, which live in mixed herds. Buffalo herds are discrete social units and females were never observed in another herd than their own. The herd showed a structure with respect to the distribution of sex‐age classes. Individual cows generally kept the same location within the herd. The location in the herd appeared to be coupled to food intake and was strongly related to physical condition. The best location (highest intake and best condition) was between the front and the centre of the herd, the worst location was the rear of the herd (when moving or grazing). Females with calves appeared to have the highest position in the hierarchy as determined from the rate of displacement over food; adult bulls did not interact with cows. Few births were observed during the late dry season and it appears that there is a calving peak at the end of the long rains. Conception rate increased when cows increased in condition and dropped when cows lost condition. Cows showed a strong seasonality in condition but bulls on average hardly changed in condition, except for a loss in condition during the inferred conception peak. Buffalo herds in Manyara showed a fusion‐fission pattern independent of season but strongly influenced by the size of the herd: large herds split more often than smaller ones. In large herds, buffalo grazed closer together than in small herds and it appeared likely that competition was more severe in large herds. Animals in the rear of a large herd lost condition faster during the dry season than animals in the best location in the herd, and especially cows in the rear split off most frequently from the herd to graze in a smaller fragment. From the literature on cattle, it is inferred that the reproductive success of cows in the rear of the herd will be lower than of cows in the best location, and this differential is confirmed by the behaviour of adult bulls. It is as yet unclear what the advantage is for adult cows in the rear of a large herd to stay in that herd but the sharing of information with more successful individuals seems a good candidate.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)47-71
    Number of pages25
    JournalEthology
    Volume81
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Jan-1989

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