South African Journal of Science
On-line version ISSN 1996-7489
MIMOUN, Jamel Ben and NOUIRA, Saïd. Food habits of the aoudad Ammotragus lervia in the Bou Hedma mountains, Tunisia. S. Afr. j. sci. [online]. 2015, vol.111, n.11-12, pp. 1-5. ISSN 1996-7489. http://dx.doi.org/10.17159/sajs.2015/20140448.
A micro-histological analysis of composite faecal samples was used to determine the food plants consumed by the aoudad Ammotragus lervia (Barbary sheep) in the mountains of Bou Hedma National Park, as well as to study food preferences and seasonal variation of the diet of this ungulate. A total of 19 plant species was identified in the faecal samples: 8 grasses, 6 browse types and 5 forbs. The annual diet of this ungulate is composed of approximately 67% grasses, 17% browse and 16% forbs. Two grass species, Stipa parviflora and Stipa tenacissima, comprised 97% of grasses consumed and 63% of the annual diet, and were eaten in the year with considerably greater frequency than any other plant species. The diet of the aoudad at Bou Hedma National Park showed a seasonal variation. For example, grasses were consumed the entire year with a preference in spring (72.57%) and summer (78.31%), but their occurrence in the diet dropped in winter (38.7%). Browse was eaten preferentially in autumn (21.86%) and forbs were utilised most during winter (43.22%) and least during summer (7.53%). Our results show the plasticity of the Tunisian aoudad's diet and identify it predominantly as a grazer.
Keywords : Barbary sheep; food habits; north Africa; seasonal variation; ungulate.