The utilization pattern of wild plant species by migratory elephants in relation to their nutritive values in South West Bengal forests
The study was carried out on the utilization pattern of various wild plant species by migratory elephants in relation to their nutritive values. It was observed that migratory elephants were highly selective for food plants in the wilderness. Only 17 plant species were found to be utilized either fully or partially as evidenced by branch breaking, debarking, uprooting etc. Overall utilization of food plants revealed that Diospyros melanoxylon was utilized maximum (34.39%) followed by Pterocarpus marsupium (24.86%) among all the recorded plants. Bark of Buchanania latifolia was moderately utilized (10.58%). All other recorded plants were utilized below 10 percent. Chemical composition of some wild plants consumed by elephants revealed that crude protein content varied form 3.18 (Shorea robusta) to 21.25 (P. marsupium) g percent. Crude fibre content ranged from 20.0 (P. marsupium) to 54.0 (D. melanoxylon) percent. Root of D. melanoxylonand bark of Careya arborea had higher crude fibre contents. Sodium content of Terminalia tomentosa bark was much higher (2.57 mg/g) than that of bark of Shorea robusta (0.78 mg/ g). Potassium content in recorded plants ranged from 18.76 (S. robusta) to 154.83 (Gardenia gummifera) mg/g. Calcium content in bark ranged from 7.34 to 32.50 mg/g except in S. robusta (1.7 mg/g). Lowest manganese content was found in the fruits of Aegle mermelos (0.02 mg/g). Copper content varies from 0.03 (B. latifolia) to 1.42 (S. robusta) mg/g. Zinc content ranged from 0.01 to 3.36 mg/g in the studied plants. High protein content of P.marsupium leaves is the probable reasons for highest degree of utilization. It was found a positive correlation between degree of debarking by elephants and calcium content of the plant species.
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