The role of water abundance, thermoregulation, perceived predation risk and interference competition in water access by African herbivores

In African savannas, surface water can become limiting and an understanding of how animals address the trade-offs between different constraints to access this resource is needed. Here, we describe water access by ten African herbivore species in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, and we explore four possible determinants of the observed behaviours: water abundance, thermoregulation, perceived predation risk and interference competition. On average, herbivores were observed to drink in 80% of visits to a waterhole. The probability of drinking was higher in 2003 (474 mm) than in 2004 (770 mm), and at the end of the dry season than at its beginning. For larger species, this probability may also be related to risks of interference competition with elephants or other herbivores. For smaller species, this probability may also be related to the perceived risk of predation. We also investigate the time spent accessing water to drink. The influence of herd size and the presence of young on the time spent accessing water for most species suggests that perceived predation risk plays a role. Thermoregulation also affects this time: during the hottest periods, herbivores spend less time in open areas, unless when wind is strong, probably owing to evapotranspired heat loss.

Last Updated
January 27, 2021
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