SEASONAL FEEDING ECOLOGY OF RE-INTRODUCED BLACKBUCK (Antilope cervicapra) IN HIRAPUR PHANTA OF SUKLAPHANTA NATIONAL PARK, NEPAL
The study was conducted in Hirapur Phanta of Suklaphanta National Park (ShNP) during January and June 2016. This study aimed to explore the seasonal food habits and dry matter intake of reintroduced blackbuck in Hirapur Phanta. The key methods employed in this study were direct observation of food, bites rate and fecal output of blackbuck aided with binoculars (8 ´ 50). A total of 3568 bites in the winter season and 4335 bites in the monsoon season were recorded that accounted the average bite rates of 37.17/min in the winter and 45.16/min in the monsoon. Average dry weight of the bite was 0.058 g in the winter season and 0.066 g during the monsoon. Total dry matter intake for an adult blackbuck was 1.77 kg/day and daily time spent feeding was 54.67% in winter. Whereas, during the monsoon season, total dry matter intake was 2.24 kg/day and daily time spent feeding was 58%. Average daily defecation rate was 9.44 times in the winter and 9.76 times in the monsoon season. Daily fecal output in term of average dry weight was 383.26 g in the winter season and 444.08 g in the monsoon and average seasonal total fecal output was 414.13 g per day. Dry matter digestibility was on average 78.38% in the winter season and 80.19% in monsoon season. For their long-term survival in ShNP, controlled livestock grazing around enclosure, cultivation of seasonal food, plantation of palatable plants, habitat extension and proper management should be considered.