Utilization by elephants of the Brachystegia woodlands of the Kasungu National Park, Malawi

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Summary

Utilization by elephants of the trees of the Brachystegia woodlands of Kasungu National Park, Malawi, was investigated. Of forty-one common species thirtyfive species were eaten, of which thirteen species were selected by elephants. The chemical composition of the leaf material was analysed and a significant correlation was found between the utilization of certain species and the protein and sodium content, whereas the crude fibre content showed no significant correlation but in general appeared to be relatively low in highly favoured species. The pushing over and uprooting of trees by elephants appear to be part of a feeding strategy which improves the availability of food for elephants during the dry season. The number of trees browsed increased with an increasing tree density up to 300 trees ha-1, where browsing intensity remained constant for both selected and non-selected species. The reasons why the species composition of Brachystegia woodlands is hardly affected by elephant use are briefly discussed.

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