Foraging behaviour of donkeys grazing in a coastal dune area in temperate climate conditions

Indra Lamoot, Julie Callebaut, Else Demeulenaere, C Vandenberghe, Maurice Hoffmann

    Research output: Contribution to journalA1: Web of Science-article

    15 Downloads (Pure)

    Abstract

    A small herd of donkeys was introduced in a coastal dune reserve ‘Houtsaegerduinen’ (ca. 80 ha) in Belgium, in order to slow down expansion of dominant grass and shrub species. The Houtsaegerduinen is a nutrient poor scrub-dominated dune system with a spatially heterogeneous vegetation pattern. Different aspects of the grazing behaviour (grazing time, bite rate, habitat use, diet composition) of the free-ranging donkeys are described and analysed. Behavioural data (of maximum six adult mares) were collected through continuous focal animal observation in three consecutive years (1998–2001). Temporal variation in grazing time, habitat use and diet composition was determined.

    During daylight, donkeys spent most of their time on grazing (56%). In all 3 years, grazing time was significantly shorter in summer (45% of their time), longest grazing times were achieved in spring (64%). In spring, the donkeys also achieved the highest bite rate (21.5 bites/min). The grassy habitat was preferred for foraging in all seasons, while the use of scrub and woodland was variable over time. Averaged over the four seasons, the general diet consisted for 80% of graminoids, 10% of forbs and 10% of woody plants. However, diet composition varied not only among seasons and years, but depended also on the foraged habitat type. We discuss the possible role of the donkeys in nature management.

    Original languageEnglish
    JournalApplied Animal Behaviour Science
    Volume92
    Issue number1-2
    Pages (from-to)93-112
    Number of pages20
    Publication statusPublished - 2005

    Thematic List 2020

    • Protected nature

    Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Foraging behaviour of donkeys grazing in a coastal dune area in temperate climate conditions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this