Tahir Ali Rather, Shaizah Tajdar, Sharad Kumar, Jamal Ahmed Khan
Ursus 2020 (31e12), 1-8, (18 September 2020) https://doi.org/10.2192/URSUS-D-19-00013.2
KEYWORDS: Bandhavgarh, central India, dietary energy content, food habits, Lantana camara, Melursus ursinus, sloth bear, termites
We studied seasonal variation in food habits of sloth bears (Melursus ursinus) in the human-dominated buffer zone of the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh, India, during 2017 and 2018. We analyzed 109 sloth bear scats from summer and 103 from winter to characterize the seasonal variation in food habits. We used the Index of Relative Importance (IRI) to determine the importance of each food item. Tendu (Diospyros melanoxylon) fruits had the highest IRI score in summer and termites had the highest IRI score in winter. There was a distinct seasonal variation in the food habits of the sloth bears (χ2 = 143.3, 10 df, P < 0.01). Insects (termites and ants) were the most important food source for sloth bears, contributing 41% and 95% of the Estimated Dietary Energy Content (EDEC) during summer and winter, respectively. We found that sloth bears fed primarily on the fruits of 6 plant species in summer, including the fruits of the invasive weed, Lantana camara. Fruits of amaltas (Cassia fistula) and char (Buchanania cochinchinensis) were consumed in a lower proportion than available, whereas the fruits of tendu were consumed in proportion to availability. Sloth bears had not consumed any large vertebrate species. The food items stabilization curve showed that 70 scats in summer, and 80 scats in winter, were required to depict the diet of sloth bear adequately. Consumption of L. camara by sloth bears, as well as other wildlife species, has strong management implications in terms of seed dispersal and the spreading of this invasive weed.