Diet Composition of Forest Inhabiting Cape Buffalo (Syncerus caffer caffer) in Western Ethiopia

Mosissa Geleta Erena, Afework Bekele, Habte Jebessa Debella


This study investigated the diet composition of Cape buffalo in Jorgo-Wato Protected Forest. Diet composition was determined through feeding quadrat survey method. Grass as a mode of diet contributed 82.6%, whereas browse contributed 17.4% to the annual diet of Cape buffalo. Graminoids (Poaceae and Cyperaceae) formed the bulk of food available and eaten by Cape buffalo in both seasons (dry and wet season). However, the contributions of graminoids were higher in the dry season than the wet season, whereas the contribution of browse was high in the wet than the dry seasons. Panicum hochstetteri and Setaria poiretiana have the highest availability, acceptability and dietary contribution in the diet of Cape buffalo in Jorgo-Wato Protected Forest. Faecal nitrogen and phosphorus content analysis indicated mean nitrogen of 18.4±0.53 g kg-1 in the wet and 17.7±0.71 g kg-1 in the dry seasons. It also revealed mean faecal phosphorus content of 4.3±0.39 g kg-1 in the wet and 3.9±0.36 g kg-1 in the dry seasons. The mean faecal nitrogen and phosphorus content of Jorgo-Wato buffalo were above the minimum threshold level in both seasons. Though Cape buffalo inhabit pure forested habitat, they found replacement in the forest to find adequate shade tolerant grass species that produce sprouts and green foliage throughout the year. Faecal nitrogen and phosphorus analysis also revealed that forest inhabited Cape buffalo obtain more quality diet than those dwelling in open savanna habitats especially in the dry season where forages dieback over the course of the dry season. Despite the pure forested habitats of Jorgo-Wato Protected Forest, Cape buffalo has confirmed that they remain grazers even in forested habitats of limited grass diversity.


African Buffalo; Diet Composition; Diet Quality; Ethiopia; Forest Inhabiting


Arsenault, R. and Owen-Smith, N. 2008. Resource partitioning by grass height among grazing ungulates does not follow body size relation. Oikos 117: 1711_1717.

Bailey, D.W.; Gross, J.E.; Laca, E.A.; Rittenhouse, L.R.; Coughenour, M.B.; Swift, D.M. and Sims, P.L. 1996. Mechanisms that result in large herbivore grazing distribution patterns. Journal of Range Management 49: 386_400.

Bar, Y.; Abramsky, Z. and Gutterman, Y. 1984. Diet of gerbilline rodents in the Israel desert. Journal of Arid Environment 7: 371–376.

Bartiaux-Thill, N. and Oger, R. 1986. The indirect estimation of the digestibility in cattle of herbage from Belgian permanent pasture. Grass and Forage Sciences 41: 269–272.

Beekman, J. H. and Prins, H. H. T. 1989. Feeding strategies of sedentary large herbivores in East Africa, with emphasis on the African buffalo, Syncerus caffer. African Journal of Ecology 27: 129–147.

Bekhuis, P. D. B. M.; DeJong, C. B. and Prins, H. H. T. 2008. Diet selection and density estimates of forest buffalo in Campo-Ma’an National Park, Cameroon. African Journal of Ecology 46: 668–675.

Blake, S. 2002a. Forest buffalo prefer clearings to closed-canopy forest in the primary forest of northern Congo. Oryx 36: 81–86.

Blake, S. 2002b. The Ecology of Forest Elephant Distribution and its Implications for Conservation. PhD dissertation, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh. 307pages.

Bullock, J.M. 2006. Plants. pages189-213, In: Sutherland, W.J. (Editor). Ecological Census Techniques: A Handbook. 2nd ed. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

Buys, D. 1990. Food selection by eland in the western Transvaal. South African Journal of Wildlife Research 20: 16–20.

Codron, D.; Codron, J.; Lee-Thorp, J.A.; Sponheimer, M.; de Ruiter, D.; Sealy, J.; Grant, R. and Fourie, N. 2007. Diets of savanna ungulates from stable carbon isotope composition of faeces. Journal of Zoology 273: 21–29.

Cromhout, M. 2006. The Ecology of the African Buffalo in the Eastern Kalahari Region, South Africa. M.Sc Thesis, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa. 190pages.

De Graaf, G.; Shulz, K.C.A. and Van DerWalt, P.T. 1973. Notes on rumen contents of Cape buffalo Syncerus caffer in the Addo Elephant National Park. Koedoe16: 45–58.

Field, C.R. 1968. A comparative study of the food habits of some wild ungulates in the Queen Elizabeth Park, Uganda: Preliminary report. Pages. 135–151, In: Crawford, M. A. (Editor) Comparative Nutrition of Wild Large Mammals. Symposia of the Zoological Society of London, no. 71. Academic Press, London.

Funston, P.J.; Skinner, J.D. and Dott, H.M. 1994. Seasonal variation in movement patterns, home range and habitat selection of buffaloes in a semi-arid habitat. African Journal of Ecology 32: 100–114.

Gagnon, M. and Chew, A.E. 2000. Dietary preferences in extant African bovidae. Journal of Mammalogy 81: 490–511.

Grant, C.C. Peel; M.J.S. and van Ryssen, J.B.J. 2000. Nitrogen and phosphorus concentration in faeces: an indicator of range quality as a practical adjunct to existing range evaluation methods. African Journal of Range and Forage Sciences 17: 81–92.

Grant, C.C.; Biggs, H.C.; Meissner, H.H. and Basson, P.A. 1996. The usefulness of faecal phosphorus and nitrogen in interpreting differences in live-mass gain and the response to P supple-mentation in grazing cattle in arid regions. Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research 63: 121-126.

Grant, C.C.; Meissner, H.H. and Schultheiss, W.A. 1995. The nutritive value of veld as indicated by faecal phosphorous and nitrogen and its relation to the condition and movement of prominent ruminants during the 1992-1993 drought in the Kruger National Park. Koedoe 38: 17–31.

Grasman, B.T. and Hellgren, E.C. 1993. Phosphorous nutrition in white-tailed deer: nutrient balance, physiological responses, and antler growth. Ecology 74: 2279 –2296.

Greenwood, J.J.D. and Robinson, R.A. 2006. General Census Methods. pages 87–185, In: Sutherland, W.J. (Editor) Ecological Census Techniques: A Handbook. 2nd edition. Cambridge University Press, London.

Grobler, J.H. 1983. Feeding habits of the Cape Mountain Zebra. Koedoe 26: 159–168.

Hensman, M.C.; Owen-Smith N.; Parrini, F. and Erasmus, B.F. 2012. Dry season browsing by sable antelope in northern Botswana. African Journal of Ecology 50: 513–516.

Hofmann, R.R. 1989. Evolutionary steps of eco-physiological adaptation and diversification of ruminants: a comparative view of their digestive system. Oecologia 78: 443–457.

Holechek, J. L.; Galyean, M. L.; Wallace, J. D. and Wofford, H. 1985. Evaluation of faecal. indices for predicting phosphorus status of cattle. Grass and Forage Sciences 40: 489–492.

Homolka, M. 1987. Problems associated with investigations into the diet of the European hare. Folia Zoology 36: 193–192.

Irwin, L.L.; Cook, J.G.; Mcwhirter, D.E.; Smith, S.G. and Arnett, E. B. 1993. Assessing winter dietary quality in bighorn sheep via faecal nitrogen. Journal of Wildlife Management 57: 413–421.

Jarman, P. J. 1971. Diets of large mammals in the woodlands around Lake Kariba, Rhodesia. Oecologia 8: 157–187.

Johnson, D.H. 1980. The comparison of usage and availability measurements for evaluating resource preference. Ecology 6: 65–71.

Kamler, J. and Homolka, M. 2005. Faecal nitrogen: a potential indicator of red and roe deer diet quality in forest habitats. Folia Zoology 54: 89–98.

Katona, K. and Altbacker, V. 2002. Diet estimation by faeces analysis: sampling optimization for the European hare. Folia Zoology 51: 11–15.

Kingdon, J. 1982. East African Mammals: An Atlas of Evolution in Africa. Vol. III, part C (Bbovids). University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois. 404 pages.

Klaus-Hugi, C.; Klaus, G.; Schmid, B. and Konig, B.1999. Feeding ecology of a large social antelope in the rainforest. Oecologia 119: 81–90

Landman, M. and Kerley, G. I. H. 2001. Dietary shifts: do grazers become browsers in the thicket biome? Koedoe 44: 31–36.

Landman, M.; Kloppers, K. and Kerley, G. I. H. 2018. Setling the browser–grazer debate for African bu alo in grass-limited Eastern Cape thicket, South Africa. Koedoe 60(1), a1465. htps://

Leslie, D. M. and Starkey, E. E. 1985. Fecal indices to dietary quality of cervids in old-growth forests. Wildlife Management 49: 142–151.

Lesoli, M. 2008. Vegetation and Soil Status, Human Perceptions on the Condition of Communal Rangelands of the Eastern Cape, South Africa. M.Sc. Thesis, University of Fort Hare, Alice, South Africa.

Leuthold, W. 1972. Home range movements and food of a buffalo herd in Tsavo National Park. East African Wildlife Journal 10: 237–243.

Macandza, A. V.; Owen-Smith, N. and Cross, P. C. 2004. Forage selection by African buffalo in the late dry season in two landscapes. South African Journal of Wildlife Research 34: 113–121.

Macleod, S. B.; Kerley, G. I. H. and Gaylard, A. 1996. Habitat use and diet of bushbuck Tragelaphus scriptus in the woody Cape Nature Reserve: Observation from faecal analysis. South African Journal of Wildlife Research 26: 19–25.

Magome, H.; Cain, J. W.; Owen-Smith, N. and Henley, S. R. 2008. Forage selection of sable antelope in Pilanesberg Wildlife Reserve, South Africa. South African Journal of Wildlife Research 38: 35–41.

Mattson, W. J. 1980. Herbivory in relation to plant nitrogen content. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 11: 119–161.

Mloszewski, M. J. 1983. The behaviour and ecology of the African buffalo. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. 268 pages.

Morison, C.G.T.; Hoyle, A.C. and Hope-Simpson, J.F. 1984. Tropical soil vegetation catenas and mosaics. Journal of Ecology 36: 1-84.

Muposhi, V.K.; Chanyandura, A.; Gandiwa, E.; Muvengwi, J.; Muboko, N.; Taru, P. and Kupika, O. L. 2014. Post-release monitoring of diet profile and diet quality of reintroduced African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) in Umfurudzi Park, Zimbabwe. Tropical Conservation Sciences 7: 440–456.

Ndawula, J.; Tweheyo, M.; Tumusiime, D.M. and Eilu, G. 2011. Understanding sitatunga (Tragelaphus spekii) habitats through diet analysis in Rushebeya Kanyabaha wetland, Uganda. African Journal of Ecology 49: 481–489.

Nicholson, M.C.; Bowyer, R.T. and Kie, J.G. 2006. Forage selection by mule deer: does niche breadth increase with population density? Journal of Zoology 269: 39–49.

Novellie, P.; Hall-Martin, A. J. and Joubert, D. 1991. The problem of maintaining large herbivores in small conservation areas: deterioration of the grassveld in the Addo Elephant National Park. Koedoe 34: 41–50.

Owen-Smith, N. 1982. Factors influencing the transfer of plant products into large herbivore populations. pages 359–404, In: Huntley, B. J. and Walker, B. H. (Editors) Ecology of Tropical Savannas. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.

Owen-Smith, N. and Cooper, S. M. 1987. Assessing food preferences of ungulates by acceptability indices. Journal of Wildlife Management 51: 372–378.

Paley, R. G. T and Kerley, G. I. H. 1998. The winter diet of elephants in Eastern Cape Subtropical Thicket, Addo Elephant National Park. Koedoe 41: 37–45.

Paola, V. S.; Cid, M. S.; Brizuela, M. A. and Ferri, C. M. 2005. Microhistological estimation of grass leaf blade percentages in pastures and diets. Rangeland Ecology and Management 58: 207–214.

Parker, K. L.; Barboza P. S. and Gillingham, M. P. 2009. Nutrition integrates environmental responses of ungulates. Functional Ecology 23: 57–69.

Perrin, M. R. and Brereton-Stiles, R. 1999. Habitat use and feeding behaviour of the buffalo and the white rhinoceros in the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve. Journal of Wildlife Research 29: 72–81.

Petrides, G. A. 1975. Principal foods versus preferred foods and their relations to stocking rat and range condition. Biological Conservation 7: 161–168.

Prins, H. H. T. 1996. Ecology and Behaviour of the African Buffalo: Social Inequality and Decision Making, Wildlife Ecology and Behaviour Series Vol. 1. Chapman and Hall, London. 293 pages.

Prins, H. H. T. and Beekman, J. H. 1989. A balanced diet as a goal for grazing: the food of the Manyara buffalo. African Journal of Ecology 27: 241–259

Riney, T. 1960. A field technique for assessing physical condition of some ungulates. Journal of Wildlife Management 24: 92–94.

Sanders, K. D.; Dahl, B. E. and Scott, G. 1980. Bite count vs. faecal analysis for range animal diets. Journal of Range Management 33: 146–149.

Scholes, R. J. and Walker, B. H. 1993. An African savanna: Synthesis of the Nylsvlei study. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. 320 pages.

Sinclair, A.R.E. 1977. The African Buffalo: A Study of Resource Limitation of Populations. University of Chicago Press, Chicago. 355 pages.

Sinclair, A. R. E. 1974. The natural regulation of buffalo populations in East Africa IV. The food supply as a regulating factor, and competition. East African Wildlife Journal 12: 169–183.

Skarpe, C. and Hester, A. J. 2008. Plant Traits, Browsing and Gazing Herbivores and Vegetation Dynamics. pages 217–261, In: Gordon, I.J. and Prins, H.T. (Editors). The Ecology of Browsing and Grazing. Springer, Heidelberg, Germany.

Skinner, J. D. and Chimimba, C.T. 2005. The Mammals of the Southern African Sub-region. Cambridge, University Press, Cambridge. 814 pages.

Skinner, J. and Smithers, R. 1991. The Mammals of the Southern African Sub-region. University of Pretoria, Pretoria. 768pages.

Stark, M.A. 1986. Daily movement, grazing ability and diet of savanna buffalo, Syncerus caffer brachyceros, in Benoue National Park, Cameroon. African journal of Ecology 24: 255–262.

Steuer, P.; Clauss, M.; Südekum, K.-H.; Hatt, J.-M.; Silinski, S.; Klomburg, S.; Zimmermann, W.; Fickel, J.; Streich, W. J. and Hummel, J. 2010. Comparative investigations on digestion in grazing (Ceratotherium simum) and browsing (Diceros bicornis) rhinoceroses. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A. 156: 380–388.

Tomlinson, D.N.S. 1980. Seasonal food selection by water buck Kobus ellipsiprymnus in a Rhodesian Game Park. South African Journal of Wildlife Research 10: 22–28.

Tshabalala, T.; Dube, S. and Lent, P.C. 2009. Seasonal variation in forages utilized by the African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) in the succulent thicket of South Africa. African Journal of Ecology 48: 438–445.

Vander Hoek, Y.; Lustenhouwer, I.; Jeffery, K.J. and van Hooft, P. 2012. Potential effects of prescribed savannah burning on the diet selection of forest buffalo (Syncerus caffer nanus) in Lope National Park, Gabon. African Journal of Ecology 51: 94–101.

Van Soest, P.J. 1994. Nutritional Ecology of the Ruminant. 2nd edition, Cornell University Press, New York, USA. 476 pages.

Venter, J.A. and Watson, L.H. 2008. Feeding and habitat use of buffalo (Syncerus caffer caffer) in Nama-Karoo, South Africa. South African Journal of Wildlife Research 38: 42–51.

Venter, J.A. 2006. The Feeding Ecology of Buffalo (Syncerus caffer caffer) in Doornkloof Nature Reserve, Northern Cape Province, South Africa. M.Sc. Thesis. Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, George. 145 pages.

Walker, B.H. 1993. Rangeland ecology: understanding and managing changes. Ambio 22: 80–87.

Weel, S.; Watson, L.H.; Weel, J.; Venter, J.A. and Reeves, B. 2015. Cape mountain zebra in the Baviaanskloof Nature Reserve, South Africa: resource use reveals limitations to zebra performance in a dystrophic mountainous ecosystem. African Journal of Ecology 53: 428–438.

Wolfson, M.M. and Tainton, N.M. 1999. The morphology and physiology of the major forage plants. pages 7-39, In: Tainton, N. (Editor) Veld Management in South Africa. University of Kwazulu Natal, Pietermaritzburg.

Wrench, J.M.; Meissner, H.H. and Grant, C.C. 1997. Assessing diet quality of African ungulates from faecal analyses: the effect of forage quality, intake and herbivore species. Koedoe 40: 125–136.

Wrench, J.M.; Meissner, H.H.; Grant, C.C. and Casey, N.H. 1996. Environmental factors that effect the concentration of P and N in feacal samples collected in the determination of nutritional status. Koedoe 39: 1–6.

Zar, J. H. 1996. Biostatistical analysis. Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ. 662 pages.

Full Text: PDF


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

COPYRIGHT of this Journal vests fully with the National Instional Institute of Ecology. Any commercial use of the content on this site in any form is legally prohibited.