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Keywords:

  • ecological stress;
  • frugivory;
  • forest quality;
  • kipunji Rungwecebus kipunji;
  • regeneration;
  • Rungwe–Livingstone;
  • southwest Tanzania

Abstract

Forest loss and fragmentation threaten many primates globally, and often leads to a reduction in food resources. During a 22-mo period, the foraging ecology of the critically endangered kipunji Rungwecebus kipunji was studied in the heterogeneous Rungwe–Livingstone forests, southwest Tanzania, to identify periods of possible ecological stress, fallback foods used by the species, and the impact of forest disturbance on feeding resources. The studied group had a wide diet and was predominantly frugivorous. Fruit consumption was driven by fruit availability which peaked during the wet season, and dipped during the driest months. During this period, two fallback foods: mature leaves and pith were widely consumed, with Macaranga capensis an essential fallback species. α diversity and evenness of diet was remarkably similar across months, but there was high β diversity in diets at the cusp of wet and dry seasons, and during periods of low fruit availability. This suggests considerable dietary adaptability to fluctuating resources, which may act to buffer against further forest disturbance. Tree species associated with relatively undisturbed forest were significantly more important in the diet, especially in the dry season, than those of disturbed forests. Regeneration of key trees (determined through counting of seedlings and saplings in plots) appeared healthy except in two important Ficus species. Conservation management, while focusing on promoting old growth forest, should also consider populations of some important pioneer tree species such as Macaranga capensis both inside the forest and in any reforestation schemes outside the species’ current area of occupancy.

Kutoweka kwa misitu na uharibifu wake kunatishia maisha ya viumbe aina ya nyani duniani, na mara kwa mara hupelekea kupungua kwa malisho. Katika kipindi cha miezi 22 utafiti wa kitaalamu ulifanyika kuhusu ikolojia ya malisho ya mnyama ambaye yupo hatarini kutoweka kipunji Rungwecebus kipunji katika misitu ya Rungwe−Livingstone kusini mwa Tanzania, kuweza kugundua vipindi mbalimbali ambapo matatizo ya kiikolojia yanatokea, vyakula vilivyodondoka vilivyokwisha tumika na wanyama (spishi) na jinsi uharibifu wa misitu unavyoathiri malisho ya wanyama. Kundi lililofanyiwa utafiti lilikuwa na aina mbalimbali za vyakula na lilikuwa ni kundi la spishi walao matunda. Ulaji wa matunda ulisababishwa na uwepo wa matunda katika kipindi cha mvua na kupungua kipindi cha kiangazi.Katika kipindi hiki, kuna aina tatu za vyakula vinavyodondoka kutoka kwenye miti kama vile: matunda ambayo hayajakomaa, majani yaliyokomaa na pia vililiwavyo kwa wingi sana, pamoja na Macaranga capensis ambao ni mmea muhimu unaodondoka. Alfa (α) aina mbalimbali na kufanana kwa chakula ni sawa kwa miezi yote, lakini kulikuwa na aina nyingi ya bita (β) ya chakula katika kipindi cha mvua na kiangazi, na kipindi cha uwepo mdogo wa matunda. Utafiti huu unashauri kuwepo na mazingira ya kuzoea aina nyingine za vyakula pindi chakula kilichozoeleka hakipatikani, hii itasaidia kupunguza makali ya kuharibika kwa misitu kunakoleta baa la njaa. Aina ya miti inayoambatana na misitu ambayo haijaharibiwa kwa kiasi kikubwa ilikuwa ni muhimu kwa chakula hasa katika kipindi cha kiangazi, kuliko misitu iliyoharibiwa. Kuota kwa miti (iliyogunduliwa kwa njia ya kuhesabu miche na kusampo vitalu) ilikuwa ina afya nzuri kasoro spishi mbili muhimu za ficus. Wito kwa wadau mbalimbali wa uhifadhi waweze kulitupia macho swala la utunzwaji na uhifadhi wa spishi ndogo ya miti kama Macaranga capensis badala ya kuipa kipaumbele misitu iliyozeeka kwa kuangalia ndani ya hifadhi za misitu na nje ya skimu zozote za misitu nje ya eneo la sasa inapopatikana spishi hii.