The importance of rodents in the diet of jungle cat (Felis chaus), caracal (Caracal caracal) and golden jackal (Canis aureus) in Sariska Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan, India

Authors


*Dr S. Mukherjee, Nature Conservation Foundation, 3076/5, IV Cross, Gokulam Park, Mysore 570 002, India. E-mail: shomitam@yahoo.com

Abstract

Many small carnivores include rodents in their diet. However, due to varying evolutionary strategies, carnivores differ in their metabolism and energy requirements. Hence, comparisons of diet between carnivores would be more meaningful if the body size and energetics of the predators are considered. The diet of three small carnivores (jungle cat Felis chaus; caracal Caracal caracal; golden jackal Canis aureus) from a semi-arid part of western India was studied through scat analysis, and the importance of rodents in their diet was estimated as a percentage of their daily energy requirement. Although percentage frequency in scats and biomass consumption showed rodents to be equally important to all three carnivores, energy calculations showed that rodents were more important as prey for the felids than the jackal. Up to 70% of the daily metabolizable energy in felids was obtained from rodents, as compared to 45% in the jackal. Rodents are generally viewed as pests, and their importance to the small carnivore community is overlooked. Change in land use over the decades in the arid/semi-arid tract of western India has led to several adverse as well as favourable modifications in rodent assemblages, which could influence the persistence of species like the caracal and jungle cat in this region, that largely depend on rodents for their survival.

Ancillary