oa South African Journal of Science - Comparison of broad-scale plant species preferences of indigenous herbivores in a nature reserve in the Little Karoo with those of domestic smallstock : research article

Volume 102, Issue 7-8
  • ISSN : 0038-2353
  • E-ISSN: 1996-7489



Herbivores are known to be selective feeders, choosing plants to satisfy their nutritional requirements efficiently. Palatability indices based on expert opinion and data for domestic smallstock preferences are often applied to indigenous herbivores, for example in stocking-rate calculations. However, indigenous herbivores may differ in their response to factors affecting palatability. The Ivlev Electivity Index was used to determine preference scores for 90 plant species based on their use by a mixed group of indigenous herbivores in a nature reserve in the Little Karoo, South Africa. Indigenous herbivores based their diet on moderately preferred, highly abundant species. Two grass species constituted 30% of the plants utilized, although shrubby vegetation types dominated the reserve. Moderately preferred plant species showed higher variation in palatability between vegetation types and highly preferred species contributed less than 5% to cover within vegetation types. Plant preferences of the indigenous herbivore combination in the area were positively correlated with domestic smallstock (sheep and goats) preference ratings, although indigenous herbivores were found to be more sensitive to fibre levels. These findings have relevance for determining the capacity of rangeland to support mixed indigenous herbivores.

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