Seasonal food preferences and group activity pattern of Blackbuck Antilope cervicapra (L., 1758) (Mammalia: Cetartiodactyla: Bovidae) in a semi-arid region of western Haryana, India

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Vikram Delu
Dharambir Singh
Sumit Dookia


To evaluate food preferences and group activity patterns, a fragmented population of Blackbuck Antilope cervicapra was selected for observation in a semi-arid ecosystem of western Haryana. A field survey was conducted fortnightly, from dawn to dusk, between September 2019 and August 2020, covering every season. Scan sampling and quadrat methods were used to record data on group size and vegetation. Group sizes ranged from 3 to 72 individuals. Based on visual observation, blackbuck seasonally consumed 26 species belonging to 25 families with varied preferences, out of a total of 53 plant species documented from the study site. Some plant species with high medicinal and therapeutic values were preferred, including Artemisia scoparia, Cucumis callous, Ziziphus jujuba, and Ziziphus nummularia. Unlike most herbivores, Blackbuck also consumed the toxic and medicinally rich Calotropis procera. We suggest that zoos which house blackbuck include these preferred wild plant species in their diet. Observations on group activity were analyzed on hourly, monthly and seasonal bases, and converted into time percentages. Group foraging activity was at a maximum in the monsoon (62%) and minimum in winter (50%), followed by resting: maximum in winter (21%) and minimum (12%) in monsoon, largely influenced by food availability. Foraging/walking ratio was at a maximum (5.2) in monsoon and minimum (3.1) in winter, and was correlated with the number of group sightings (maximum in winter and minimum in monsoon) in nearby farmland, when the animals faced food scarcity in their natural habitat and fed on crops. 

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