CEPF Western Ghats Special Series: Frugivory and seed dispersal by the Asian Elephant Elephas maximus in the tropical forests of Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, southern India

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N. Baskaran
A.A. Desai


Seed dispersal plays a potential role in plant species demographic processes. Elephants are important seed-dispersing agents. We studied frugivory and seed dispersal by Asian Elephants in the tropical deciduous and thorn forests of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, southern India. We determined fruit consumption based on the presence of seeds and fruit remnants in elephant dung piles. In total, we identified seeds of eight plant species belonging to seven families in 16% out of 455 dung piles examined between 1991 and 2004. Coinciding with a peak fruiting season in the study area, seeds and other fruit parts appeared in the dung piles significantly more frequently during the dry season than in the wet seasons (southwest and northeast monsoons). Owing to differences in fruit species abundance in different habitats, there was more evidence of fruit consumption in the dry thorn than in the dry and moist deciduous forests. This corresponds with insufficient grass availability in thorn forests during the dry season and an increase in browse consumption as a supplementary diet. Seeds of Tamarindus indica and Acacia intsia were found in elephant dung more frequently than other species. Seed and fruit remnants were found in almost an equal number of dung piles of both bulls and herds.

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