Indian gaur (Bos gaurus) is one of nine species of wild oxen found in the world. They are largely confined to evergreen, semi-evergreen, and moist deciduous forests, but also occur in dry deciduous forest areas at the periphery of their range. According to the IUCN Red List (2017), the estimated population of gaur in India is between 15,000 and 35,000 individuals, and probably due to this, despite the gaur's vast range of distribution, they are listed as a vulnerable species by IUCN and listed as schedule-I of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act (1972) as well as in appendix-I in CITES (2003). Gaur is not a well studied species, and baseline data are thus needed to support conservation efforts. We studied the feeding habits of gaur in Pench Tiger Reserve. Pench Tiger Reserve is the 19th tiger reserve in India, situated in the Seoni and Chhindwara districts of MP, India (21°41′35″N 79°14′54″E). Diet composition of gaur was studied by micro-histological examination of 32 dung piles collected from different sampling plots in different seasons. For this purpose, 169 sampling plots were established at an interval of 200 m. To locate gaur faecal matter, a circular plot of 10 m radius was laid within each sampling plot. Eighty-eight permanent reference slides of available plants were prepared and used for plant fragment identification from the dung piles. A total of 29 plant species were identified from dung piles of gaur. On average, 44.51% of grass-fragments were detected in the diet of gaur, suggesting that gaurs are primarily grazers in the Pench Tiger Reserve.
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Vol. 35 • No. 1