Variation of group size among African buffalo herds in a forest-savanna mosaic landscape


  • L. M. Korte

    1. Department of Zoology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA
    2. Station d'Etudes des Gorilles et Chimpanzés (S.E.G.C), Libreville, Gabon
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  • Editor: Nigel Bennett

Lisa M. Korte, Department of Zoology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA.


Documenting within species group size variation is important to completely understand social organization within species and to interpret variation among species. Here, I investigated group size of African buffalo Syncerus caffer over 2 years in a heterogeneous landscape. African buffalo use closed continuous forest and vast open savannas, and anecdotal observations suggest that habitat type influences their social structure. While the Cape buffalo Syncerus caffer caffer is well studied, few data exist for the forest-dwelling Syncerus caffer nanus. I observed forest buffalo at Lopé National Park, Gabon, and examined variation of group size. Eighteen forest buffalo herds used the study area with an estimated population of 342 individuals (∼5 buffalo km−2). The mean group size for the 18 herds was 12 ± 2 (range of means=3–24), considerably smaller than Cape buffalo herds. For eight radiocollared forest buffalo, the mean group size was stable, varying little with time of day, across seasons, or between savanna and marsh habitat. However, herd size varied widely across herds, from fewer than 10 individuals in the smallest herds to more than 20 buffalo in the largest. Large herd size is associated with home ranges that contain substantial areas of open habitat, and thus more food resources than forested habitats.