Little is known about the food habits of Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) in tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia. In Peninsular Malaysia, elephant habitat has been extensively modified by human intervention in the past few decades. Most of the primary forest has been logged or given way to plantations, infrastructure, and human inhabitation. Here we compare the food habits of wild elephants in three habitats of Belum-Temengor Forest Complex (BTFC): (1) primary forest, (2) selectively-logged forest, and (3) by the side of a road that bisects the forest complex. We used microhistological fecal analysis to describe elephants' diet. Elephant dung in the primary forest was mainly composed of non-grass monocotyledonous leaves (22%), woody debris (32%), and woody fiber (20%). Those in the logged forest were similar; non-grass monocotyledonous leaves accounted for 33%, woody debris for 24%, and fiber for 26%. At the roadside, elephant dung was dominated by grasses (47%). We conclude that by the road elephants shift their diet into grasses, suggesting that the road acts like a large forest gap, promoting the availability of grasses and other early succession plants. Elephant feeding by the road poses potential conservation conflicts by means of road accidents and increased contact with people.
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Vol. 41 • No. 3