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Research Article Open Access

Study on the Foraging Behavior and Diet Preferences of Indian Star Tortoises (Geochelone elegans) in Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Kerala, India


Indian star tortoises belonging to the genus Geochelone are medium sized land tortoises, found in the dry arid regions in the south- western Asia. This study evaluates the foraging behaviour and diet selection of Indian star tortoise (Geochelone elegans) in Chinnar wildlife sanctuary, Kerala. The present study concentrated on the wild population of two Adult (1 male and 1 female) star tortoises along with the 2 Sub-adults (1 male and 1 female) and 5 juveniles which were released in to the thorny scrub forest after successful rehabilitation process. The study was conducted during the period of 5th January to 2nd of March. The diet of G. elegans was examined and quantified based on faecal analysis and direct feeding observations. A comprehensive vegetation survey of all plant species within feeding height of the tortoises in the protected area was conducted. The recovered materials of several plant remains, sand remains and insect remains along with animal hairs suggest the feeding on scat of higher vertebrates which was confirmed by in-situ observations. These data, combined with daily feeding observations, were used to calculate feeding rates and diet preferences. Faecal samples were also collected to identify the diet components of all the individuals. Individuals were recorded feeding on 29 of 49 recorded plant species, 14 of which were selectively foraged. Species composition of plant species ingested differed between age classes. Wild adults selectively foraged on 13 plant species, Sub adults on 14 plant species and juveniles selectively foraged on 12 species. The array of diet items consumed by G. elegans suggests that its diet is complex and it needs to be taken into consideration in further rehabilitation programmes.

Nandu VS and Arora BM

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