Feeding and drinking habits of the black rhinoceros in Masai Mara Game Reserve



Feeding and drinking habits of the black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis L.) population in Masai Mara Game Reserve, Kenya, were studied from May 1971 to August 1972. A total of 108 rhinoceros were recorded in the study area. Feeding rhinoceros were followed behind their feeding tracks until they stopped feeding (or changed to another activity) and the plants which they selected were identified. A technique was used which provided an indication of the relative importance of certain plants in the diet during May to September 1971 (wet-semi-dry), October 1971 to February 1972 (dry) and February to May 1972 (wet-semi-dry). A total of 240 h were spent actually watching feeding rhinoceros in thirteen distribution areas. During this period rhinoceros were observed eating seventy plant species from thirty botanical families. In all distribution areas rhinoceros were very selective for herbs and shrubs, and showed a marked preference for Solanum incanum, Dichrostachys cinerea and Acacia species. Rhinoceros were also observed to visit salt licks which contained sodium, magnesium, potassium and calcium.

Two feeding peaks, one in morning and the other in the afternoon were recorded. Black rhinoceros drink water mainly at night. They spend most of the night time near the watering places for they were mostly located in the mornings walking to the feeding grounds.