Diet determination of endangered species is an essential element in defining successful conservation strategies and optimising captive breeding programmes. In this study, we developed a new diet identification system, derived from standard faecal analysis, to determine the diet of an elusive and endangered herbivore, the pygmy hippopotamus (Choeropsis liberiensis). We collected faecal samples from 10 free-ranging individuals covering a combined home range area of about 50 km2 in Taï National Park, Côte d’Ivoire. In subsequent laboratory analyses, we extracted a large number of leaf epidermis fragments from spatially separated faecal samples and compared them with a reference plant database. Using Multiple Correspondence Analysis (MCA) of epidermis fragments combined with direct visual inspection, we identified the most frequently consumed plant species, which revealed that pygmy hippopotami qualified as intermediate feeders. Their diet was based on at least seven species of monocotyledonae, dicotyledonae and fern groups, with a preference for a small number of other plant species. We evaluate the merit of our method and discuss our findings for developing effective conservation and captive breeding strategies in an endangered species with a wild population of less than 2500 adult individuals.
- Faecal analysis
- Multiple correspondence analysis