Species Composition, Distribution and Relative Abundance of Large Mammals in and around Wondo Genet Forest Patch, Southern Ethiopia
Despite Ethiopia is among the few African countries with high mammal species diversity, its mammalian resource is highly deteriorating and there is little information about the mammalian resource. As a result, a study was carried out to determine the species composition, distribution and relative abundance of large wild mammals during dry and wet seasons from July 2010 to February, 2011 in and around Wondo Genet Forest. The study area was stratified into four habitat types (natural forest, plantation, wooded grassland and agro forestry) based on land-use and vegetation cover of the study area. Stratified systematic sampling method was used to lay line transects in each habitat type. Species identification and total counting of individuals were made along each transect. A total of 19 species of large wild mammals were recorded in the area. The commonest mammals were: Papio anubis. Chlorocebus aethiops, Colobus guereza and Tragelaphus scriptus meneliki. In terms of abundance, Papio anubis (48%) and Colobus guereza (32%) were the most abundant species, while Felis serval and Felis caracal were the least abundant that each contributed only less than 1% of the total observations. The highest Simpsons Index of diversity (1-D) was obtained in the agro forestry habitat (0.769), while wooded grassland had the lowest (0.383). The seasonal variation in abundance (number) of individuals of large wild mammals was significantly different (χ2 = 153.309, df =1, p<0.05). However, the seasonal variation in species composition of large wild mammals was not significantly different (χ2 = 0.125, df = 1, p>0.05). Despite the study area is home for different species of mammals, livestock grazing, agriculture and human encroachments are very evident in the areas, putting an enormous strain on the flora and fauna. Hence, there is a need for urgent conservation measures to save the area.
Received: September 10, 2012;
Accepted: December 01, 2012;
Published: January 19, 2013
Ethiopia is among the few African countries with high mammal species diversity
(Yalden et al., 1996). The country currently
possesses 284 species of mammals (Bekele et al.,
1993; Cole et al., 1993; Bekele
and Corti, 1997; Abune, 2000), of which 31 are endemic.
The high level of endemicity of mammals in Ethiopia is attributed to the large
extent of highlands, isolated from the rest part of Africa and the variations
in temperature and rainfall among different habitats (Yalden,
1983; Yalden and Largen, 1992).
However, due to the expansion of human settlement and agriculture that lead
to habitat destruction, the natural habitats range of many wildlife species
have increasingly become smaller. As a result, the wildlife populations are
forced to occupy isolated habitat areas that are often found in National Parks
(Tedla, 1995; Hundessa, 1997;
Stephens et al., 2001; Mamo
and Bekele, 2011; Girma et al., 2012).
The Ethiopian highlands are among the most densely populated agricultural areas
in Africa (Evangelista et al., 2007). This in
turn has led to formation of many forest fragments in most part of Ethiopia
(Hundessa, 1997). However, the significance of small
fragments of wildlife habitats that exist outside protected areas in maintaining
diverse groups of wildlife species in Ethiopia is poorly understood (Hundessa,
1997; Girma et al., 2012).
The present study area consists of fragments of forest in which part of it
is protected by Wondo Genet College of Forestry and Natural Resources. The study
area was thought to be home to different wildlife including large mammals, like
Tragelaphus buxtoni, Tragelaphus scriptus meneliki, Phacochoerus
africanus, Sylvicapra grimmia and Papio anubis (Erikssion
and Stern, 1987). Nevertheless, no published information exists about mammalian
species type, their abundance and distribution of the study area. The area was
known to support 118 species of birds, of which 7 were endemics, 3 inter-African
migrants and 6 inter-continental migrants (Sim, 1979).
Although the area is thought to be a home for diverse wildlife species including
reptiles, amphibians and insects; there are barely few scientific investigations
carried on the multifaceted aspects wildlife species in the study area.
Most part of the forest was relatively protected after the establishment of
the college in the late 1970s, although different human activities and
anthropogenic pressures appear to be unabated. As far as the existing threats
to wildlife of the study area continue to prevail, the survival of these mammals
would be negatively affected. The impact of human pressure on wildlife of the
area was noted by Dessie (2007) and Mamo
(2007), they have reported among the wild mammals, Tragelaphus buxtoni
was locally extinct. Therefore, the aim of the present study is to describe
the species composition, distribution and relative abundance of large wild mammals
along systematically laid transects in the study area.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Study area: The study area is situated in the southern part of Ethiopia
at about 250 km south of the capital city and located between 38°3630
and 38°39 0 E longitude and 7°530 and 7°730
N latitude (Fig. 1). The total area coverage of the study
area is 958 ha. The lower elevation areas are mostly covered by agriculture,
the college infrastructure and plantation forests, while the uplands are covered
by the natural forests and wooded grassland. For this study, the area was stratified
into four habitat types based on altitudinal ranges and vegetation types. Accordingly,
natural forest, plantation, wooded grassland and agro forestry habitat types
were identified (Fig. 1). Natural forest represents valley
areas and middle altitude areas (2000-2200 m.a.s.l.) with dominant tree species
of: Celtis africana, Albizia gummifera, Croton macrostahyus
and Millettia ferruginea. The plantation zone occupies relatively lower
altitudinal elevations areas (1778-2000 m.a.s.l.) acting as a buffer zone between
the College infrastructure areas and natural forest. The dominant planted tress
species are Gravillea robusta, Cupressus lusitanica and Eucalyptus
spp. The wooded grassland habitat covers the upland areas of the study area
with rugged topography (2200-2670 m.a.s.l.) and dominated by grassland intermixed
with scattered stands of tress predominantly Syzygium spp. and Dodonaea
viscosa and scattered Erica scrub at the summit of mount Abaro. The
agro forestry land consists of coffee plantation, undifferentiated grassland
and cultivated land that occupies the lower altitudes areas (1747-1775 m.a.s.l.)
of the study area. The topography of the study area is characterized by high
and rugged mountainous ridges, slightly raised slopes, gently rolling steep
hills and frequently intersected gorges created by streams and rivers.
The study area falls under humid montane climate having a bimodal rainfall
during the long rainy season (June to October) and the second shorter rainy
season (March to April). The total amount of annual rainfall varies between
700-1400 mm with an average rainfall of 1,200 mm. The mean monthly temperature
Sampling design: Line transects on each habitat type (natural forest, plantation, wooded grassland and agro forestry land) were established clustered into three blocks. These were: Block-I (wooded grassland); Block-II (natural forest and plantation) and Block-III (agro forestry) (Fig. 2). A total of 30 transect lines were systematically established representing each habitat and used to estimate the abundance and distribution of large wild mammals. The length of each transect was 0.55 km and the width varied based on the visibility of each habitat type. As a result, in the natural forest (200 m), wooded grassland (400 m), plantation forest (400 m) and agro forestry land (400 m) transects width was used. The total length and the width of transects in each of the four habitat types were varied based on the habitat types (open or thick) and the size (area) of the of each four habitat types. Hence, records of the number of individuals of mammals of transects laid in similar habitat types were pulled together for analysis.
Data collection: Data collection was carried out in July and August,
2010 for the wet season and January-March, 2011 for the dry season. Large wild
mammals identifications and recordings were carried out by direct observations
aided with binoculars. Data collection was carried out walking along each transects
and directly counting all the individuals of every species sighted using unaided
eyes and 7x400 binoculars.
||Location map of the study area (NASA Landsat Program, 2003;
Landsat ETM+ scene L71168055_05520051203.ETMGLS, 2005, SLC-Off, USGS, Sioux
|| Zonation of the study area and transects layout (10 transects
in each of the three blocks) (NASA Landsat Program, 2003; Landsat ETM+scene
L71168055_05520051203. ETM-GLS, 2005, SLC-Off, USGS, Sioux Falls, 03/12/2005)
PF: Plantation forest, NF: Natural forest, WG: Wooded grassland, AL: Agricultural
Field guide of Kingdon (Kingdon, 2003) was used for
identification of the mammals. While walking quietly and gently along each transects,
the following data on any large mammalian individual observed was recorded;
species, number, sex, distance of observations and altitude using GPS were recorded.
Survey of the large wild mammals was carried out in the morning (07:00-11:00
a.m.) and late in the afternoon (03:00-05:00 p.m.). Ten days and nights were
spent per session in each habitat to census the mammals. They were two sessions
during per both dry and wet seasons. Hence, each transect was visited 20 days
per season to estimate the abundance and distribution of large mammals. As much
as possible, the observer traveled against the direction of wind to minimize
disturbances (Yimer, 2008).
Indirect evidences such as fecal droppings, feeding marks, digging or territorial markings, animal parts and other tangible evidences as well as occasional direct observations were used to confirm the presence of nocturnal mammals. However, the numerical abundances of such nocturnal wild mammals were not estimated.
Data analysis: SPSS software version 15.0 (Chi-square test), Simpsons
diversity index (D) and Shannon-Weaver diversity Index (H) were used to
analyze the data. Non-parametric Chi-square test was used to compare the seasonal
variations in species composition and abundance of individuals among habitats
at 0.05 levels of significance. Furthermore, the age distribution (Adult, Sub-adult
and Young) variations were also compared seasonally among different habitats
using Chi-square test at 0.05 levels of significance. Records of number of individuals
of mammals in the line transects that fall in the same habitats were also summed
together and treated as a record in one habitat. The species richness and diversity
of mammals in each habitat types were also computed using Simpsons diversity
index (D) and Shannon-Weaver diversity index (H).
A total of 19 species of large wild mammals were recorded and identified in
the study area (Table 1). The most frequently sighted species
were: Tragelaphus scriptus meneliki, Papio anubis, Chlorocebus
aethiops and Colobus guereza (Table 1, Fig.
Seasonal variations were observed in species composition and abundance of large
wild mammals among different habitats. The highest number of species was recorded
in the natural forest during the dry season (Table 1). Wooded
grassland and plantation habitats had also considerably high number of species
during both dry and wet seasons. Wooded grassland and plantation had similar
number of species during the dry season. Agro forestry contains the least number
of species (Table 1, Fig. 3-4).
The highest number of individuals of large wild mammals was recorded in the
natural forest habitat during the dry season and the lowest was recorded in
agro forestry habitat during the same season (Table 1, Fig.
|| Seasonal abundance and distribution of large wild mammals
among different habitats in the study area
|Agf: Agro forestry; Nf: Natural forest, Pf: Plantation forest,
Wg: Wooded grassland
||Wet season distribution of large wild mammals among different
habitats in the study area (NASA Landsat Program, 2003, Landsat ETM+scene
L71168055_05520051203.ETMGLS2005, SLC-Off, USGS, Sioux Falls, 03/12/2005),
1: O. afer, 2: P. anubis, 3: T. scriptus meneliki,
4: C. guereza, 5: S. grimmia, 6: P. larvatus, 7: C.
crocuta, 8: C. civeta, 9: C. aureus, 10: P. pardus,
11: I. albicauda, 12: H. cristata, 13: P. capensis,
14: F. serval, 15: C. aethiopis, 16: F. silvestris,
17: P. africanus
Seasonal variations in abundance (number) of individuals between seasons in agro forestry habitat (Wet = 81 and Dry = 40) (χ2 = 13.893, df = 1, p<0.05), natural forest (wet = 1454 and dry = 2275) (χ2 = 180.757, df = 1, p<0.05) and plantation forest (wet = 1006 and dry = 1233) (χ2 = 23.014, df = 1, p<0.05) were significantly different, but not in the wooded grassland habitat (Wet = 517 and dry = 558) (χ2 = 1.564, df =1, p>0.05) (Fig. 3, 4).
From a total of 7164 individuals of large wild mammals recorded during the
study period, 4106 (57%) were observed during the dry season and 3058 (43%)
during the wet season. The seasonal variation in abundance (number) of individuals
of large wild mammals was significantly different (χ2 = 153.309,
df = 1, p<0.05). Out of a total of 19 species recorded in the study area,
17 occurred during the dry season and 15 during the wet season (Table
1, Fig. 3-4). However, the seasonal
variation in species composition of large wild mammals was not significantly
different (χ2 = 0.125, df=1, p>0.05). Among all the families
of species of large mammals recorded in the study area, the family Felidae outnumbered
all other by comprising four species while most other families were represented
by single species each (Table 1).
The highest large mammal Simpsons Index (1-D) of diversity was obtained in the agro forestry habitat (0.769), while the wooded grassland had the lowest diversity (0.383) (Table 2). Likewise, the highest species evenness was obtained in the agro forestry habitat (0.758), but the lowest was in natural forest habitat (0.381).
|| Diversity indices of large wild mammals in different habitats
of the study area
||Dry season distribution of large wild mammals among different
habitats in the study area (NASA Landsat Program, 2003, Landsat ETM+scene
L71168055_05520051203. ETMGLS2005, SLC-Off, USGS, Sioux Falls, 03/12/2005),
1: O. afer, 2: P. anubis, 3: T. scriptus meneliki,
4: C. guereza, 5: S. grimmia, 6: P. larvatus, 7: C.
crocuta, 8: C. civeta, 9: C. aureus, 10: P. pardus,
11: I. albicauda, 12: H. cristata, 13: P. capensis,
14: F. serval, 15: C. aethiopis, 16: F. silvestris,
17: P. africanus
Majority of the observed mammals species had large proportions of adult age group except the most abundant primate species of P. anubis, C. aethiopis and C. guereza that have relatively higher proportion of sub-adults and young than other species (Table 3). The number and proportion of adult, sub adult and young in the observed species were 5635 (78.6%), 383 (5.4%) and 1146 (16%), respectively (Table 3). The variation in age distribution was significantly different (χ2 = 6744.388, df = 2, p<0.05). The number and proportion of age group varied between seasons. The seasonal variation in the number of adult (Wet = 2491 and Dry = 3144) (χ2 = 75.672, df = 1, p<0.05) and sub adult (Wet = 511 and Dry = 635) (χ2 = 239.710, df = 1, p<0.05) were significantly different, but not the number of young (Wet = 40 and Dry = 3144) (χ2 = 0.551, df = 1, p>0.05).
|| Seasonal age distribution of large wild mammals of the study
During the study period, a total of 19 species of large wild mammals were identified.
This result can be compared with similar studies in different parts of Ethiopia
that have used similar line transect techniques, if the number of species recorded
is considered. For example, in the Simien Mountains National Park (SMNP), Dunbar
(1978) recorded 12 species of large mammals, Bekele
(1988) recorded 25 species in the Harena forest, Kasso
et al. (2010) identified 21 species in Chilalo-Glama Forest Priority
Area and Girma et al. (2012) recorded 18 species
in Kaka and Hunkolo Fragments. Outside Ethiopia, Mian (2003),
has recorded 21 mammalian species in wintering habitat of Houbara in Pakistan.
Two out of seven large endemic mammals of Ethiopia were also recorded namely
Tragelaphu Tragelaphus scriptus meneliki and Tragelaphus buxtoni
in the present study area. This shows how the area is important in terms of
keeping unique world biota. Although, Dessie (2007) and
Mamo (2007) had revealed that T. buxtoni
was locally extinct, this study sighted the animal indirectly by its droppings.
The illusive and shy behaviors of the animal, the small number of individuals
(maximum 10) and human disturbances in the area might have contributed for not
direct sighting of the animal. Moreover, the species is thought to migrate to
the nearby forested area of Munesa Shashamane forest, thought to have better
number of mountain nyala population, through a State Forest Plantation using
as wildlife corridor, which in turn could also made sighting infrequent. So
this study will act as baseline information to study activity pattern, reasons
of migration and habitat preferences of T. buxtoni and some other
species to the nearby forested area of Munesa Shashamane forest. The relatively
higher number of T. scriptus meneliki might be attributed to the relatively
thick underground cover of the forest and surrounding grazing land that is assumed
to be ideal for the species to secure cover and food. Similar studies have noted
that the number of this subspecies was considerably high in most highland Afro-montane
remnant forests of Ethiopia with thick underground cover (Bekele,
1988; Nievergert et al., 1998; Williams,
2003; Girma et al., 2012).
Anubis baboon (P. anubis) was the most abundant species in the study
area. The species is known to be widely distributed in Africa in wide variety
of habitats from savanna grass land to up land Afro-montane forest. This might
be attributed to the feeding behavior that it is adapted to feed on variety
of food items (Johnson et al., 2012). P. anubis
is also known to prefer, like many primates, habitats in an altitudinal ranges
between 1500 and 2500 m.a.s.l., which is the attitude range of the study area.
Similar observation was made by Dunbar and Dunbar (1974)
that P. anubis distribution, was ranging from the valley bottom,
found at an altitude of 1700 m.a.s.l. to the plateau which rises over the valley
floor to an altitude of 2300 m.a.s.l. in Bole Valley of Ethiopia. UNESCO
(2008) had also noted similar observation about the abundance of P.
anubis between the altitude of 1800 and 2600 m.a.s.l. in the upland humid
forest vegetation of Bonga Forest of Ethiopia. Generally, it is known that primates
(particularly families of Colobidae and Cercopithecidae ) need forested areas
with tall trees (Kingdon, 2003). In this regard, Wondo
Genet forest is among the few, perhaps the only remnant forest in the central
rift valley with tall giant tress such as Aningeria spp., Ficus
spp., Millettia ferruginea (Dessie, 2007), which
are inhabited by arboreal mammalian species such as C. guereza, C.
aethiopis and P. anubis.
The number of individuals of large wild mammals recorded during the dry season
surpassed the number recorded during the wet season. The possible explanations
for this could be: high number of livestock and people were encroaching more
during the wet season than dry season, particularly in the wooded grassland
habitat, where the area is thought to be ideal habitat for the T. s. meneliki
and P. africanus. Literatures show that, livestock and pack animals
and human encroachments often reduce the foraging opportunities of the wild
mammals, which in turn reduce the mammals opportunities of being sighted (Dinakaran
and Anbalagan, 2007; Gundogdu, 2011; Hassani
et al., 2008). In addition, human activity such as collecting of
firewood and harvesting of grass were often high during the wet season, thus
reducing the sighting of mammals. Furthermore, the excessive rain during wet
season, which obviously boost up regeneration and growth of herbaceous and ground
vegetation might have provided thick cover for the animals, which makes sighting
of them difficult. Similarly, Ajibade et al. (2011),
noted that excessive rain during wet season can be attributed to poor viewing
of grivet monkey due to vegetation outgrowth at Kainji Lake National Park in
Nigeria. The overall effect of these factors had presumably contributed to the
low number of individuals of the mammals during the wet season than the dry
Several studies in different localities have revealed the adverse effect of
livestock and pack animals encroachments and human settlement on the abundance
and distribution of wild mammals, which in turn would reduced the sighting opportunities
of the mammals (Mathooko and Kariuki, 2000; Maan
and Chaudhry, 2001; Stephens et al., 2001;
Busby, 2005; Bonnington et al.,
2007; Al-Wadie, 2002; Subramanian
et al., 2005; Dinakaran and Anbalagan, 2007;
Yimer, 2008; Gundogdu, 2011;
Hassani et al., 2008; Girma
et al., 2012).
The highest species number recorded in the natural forest habitat during the
dry season was presumably due to the movement of large wild mammals from the
peripheral part of the study area (Wooded grassland and agro forestry land)
towards the inner and relatively protected part the (natural forest) in search
of food and cover. During the dry season, peripheral or marginal habitats like
wooded grassland and agro forestry land were relatively dry that tends to reduce
the amount of water and palatable grasses and vegetation. Hence, mammals could
be forced to move towards a relatively wet vegetation (natural forest) in the
center of the study area. Earlier studies in different parts of Ethiopia have
revealed that species diversity is often high in areas where there are sufficient
food and water sources (Ayele, 2008; UNESCO,
2008; Yimer, 2008). Similarly, studies carried out
in different parts of the world have also noted that mammalian distribution
and their habitat associations are often correlated mainly with the better availability
of water, foraging opportunities and protection (Cloudsely-Thompson,
1969; Afolayan, 1976; Bailey,
1984; Reed, 1998; Mekonnen et
al., 2011; Yaba et al., 2011). A study
on the influence of seasonality on distribution and movements of large mammals
at Yankari National Park has found out that food, water, cover, minerals and
burning practices were the main factors affecting the movements and distribution
of animals especially during the dry season (Afolayan, 1976).
The insignificant seasonal variation in abundance of individuals of mammals
observed in the wooded grassland habitat might be attributed to the behaviors
of the animals like feeding and movement that are displayed year round despite
the season. In addition, this area is the most inaccessible area for human activities
and live stock encroachments that were found to vary seasonally in other habitats
of the study area. However, because of its inaccessibility these factors were
found to be relatively constant in the wooded grassland habitat, it could possible
contributed to the insignificant variation. Furthermore, some nocturnal and
territorial mammals like leopard were noticed to stay in the same habitat despite
the food fluctuations. As a result, seasonal changes in abundance for such mammalian
species appeared to be minimal (Stephens et al.,
Particularly, top canopy tree layer dwelling animal like Black and White Colobus
Monkey (C. guereza) was mainly found in the natural forest dominated
by tree species like Aningeria spp., Ficus spp. and Millettia
ferruginea. This could be probably due to relatively surplus fruits and
leaves and better protection provide by those tall tree species. Since the forest
habitat is relatively less disturbed, it might have also contributed as a refuge
for the shy behavior of the Colobus monkey. Fetene et
al. (2011) has also revealed that Black and White Colobus Monkey selected
riverine and large trees as their best habitat. On the contrary, Vervet monkey
(C. aethiopis) was only observed in the plantation forest while it was
totally absent in the natural forest of the study area. This could be mainly
as a result of social behavior of the animal. C. aethiopis is generally
known as highly social animals that often interact with human being (Homo
sapiens). This species was observed in the human residential areas of the
study area often collecting fruits from fruit trees like Persea americana
in home garden areas and scavenging on discarded food leftover. Hence, because
of thus food sources, in the study area the species almost abandoned their original
natural forest habitat and dwell in plantation forests established surrounding
the built-up areas. Similar observations were made in different parts of Africa
that Vervet monkey selected secondary growth areas (Hartshorn,
1987; Chapman, 1985).
The lowest number of individuals of species like F. caracal and C. civeta could be due to their nocturnal behavior and their need for densely forested habitat, cover and caves for breeding that all could made the sighting of the animals difficult.
Even though, most of the individuals of the mammals observed were adults and
sub adults, the number of young or juveniles in primates and herbivores were
relatively high especially in the wet season. This indicates populations of
such species promising to increase in the future. The relatively higher number
of young individuals of primates was probably due to relatively abundant food
supply (in the natural forest, fruit plantation and human food leftover around
the human residential area), better protection and year round reproductive behavior
of the species as far as there is abundant food in the study area. This is in
line with different studies in different localities (Brown,
1969; Kingdon, 2003; UNESCO, 2008).
The significant statistically variation in age distribution was the result of
a combination of factors. Even though, they are considerably large young individual
representatives in primates and other fewer species, the number of young was
significantly reduced in other species. On one hand, this might have resulted
from degradation of the habitat (deforestation, fire, livestock grazing and
perhaps illegal hunting) that have resulted in poor cover and foraging opportunities,
hence limiting their breeding success (Haule, 1997; Stephens
et al., 2001; Busby, 2005; Bonnington
et al., 2007). Thirdly, it might be as a result of their natural
behavior, most species prefer to hide their juveniles at early age in the deep
forest making the sighting of the individuals difficult, especially during the
wet season where vegetation regeneration is booming (Ajibade
et al., 2011).
Despite being small fragment the study area harbors diverse mammalian species including the endemics like Mountain nyala and Menelik bushbuck. The forest might also serve as main migration route/corridor for large mammals to Arsi Mountains like Munesa Forest. Different habitat types in the study area are important as preferred habitats at least to one of the species recorded in the study area. Hence, the populations of different species of mammals are distributed among different habitats of the study area. Despite the importance of the localities as home for the endangered and endemic mammals, it is not yet legalized as wildlife refuge area. At the same time livestock grazing, agriculture and human encroachments are very evident in the areas, putting an enormous strain on the flora and fauna. There is a need for urgent conservation measures to save the area.
Our special gratitude goes to the Department of Wildlife and Eco-tourism, Hawassa University for providing fund and facilities. We also duly acknowledge our students of 2003 graduates for their input in the data collection process. We are also very grateful to Ato Tigneh Eshete for his help in mapping. We also appreciate the inputs and valuable comments made by reviewers.
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