The primary prey of tigers across much of South-East Asia has been depleted, reducing the ability of already limited habitat to support tigers. To better understand the extent to which two of the largest prey species, gaur (Bos gaurus) and banteng (Bos javanicus), contribute to the tiger's diet, we estimated the average size of these species killed by tigers. This information is needed to more accurately calculate biomass of these species in the tiger's diet and to devise strategies to increase tiger carrying capacity where habitat is fragmented and limited in west-central Thailand. We used temporally clumped locations of 24 satellite radio-collared tigers to identify their kill sites and obtained mandibles from 82 gaur and 79 banteng. Kills were aged by teeth eruption sequence, sectioning the M1 molar and counting cementum annuli. Of all gaur killed, 45.2% were adults; of all banteng killed, 55.7% were adults. The average weight of banteng killed was 423.9 kg, which was similar to the 397.9 kg average weight for gaur. The mean weight of both prey species is 3.5–4.5 times greater than the predicted 1:1 preferred prey to predator ratio. In the absence of medium-sized prey, killing these larger animals may be especially critical for female tigers provisioning nearly independent young when male offspring are already larger than the mother. This is the first study to present data on the average weights of gaur and banteng killed in South-East Asia, and these results suggest that these are key prey species to target in tiger prey recovery efforts.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We are grateful to the Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation, Government of Thailand, for supporting this work. We thank the Thailand Tiger Project staffs, Somporn Pakpien, Krearkpon Wongchoo, Kirati Phatthong, Nopadol Permpoon, Chorpaka Vichittrakulchai, Ekaphol Plaidaeng, Kittisak Thongvichit, Onsa Norrasarn, Supakit Phogard, and Anusorn Chanthanyakum for assistance with field work. We are also grateful to Kusol Tunkchaiphitak for his advice on the micro-technique of tooth longitudinal sections and Galina Alexandrovna Klevezal, Institute of Development Biology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, for developing the technique for reading cementum age annuli. Funding for radio-collaring tigers was provided by the PTTEP (Thailand), Thai Rukpa Foundation, Rabbit in the Moon Foundation, and the USFWS Rhinoceros Tiger Fund; Smith's contribution to this study was supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (Project No. MIN-41-002).
- large ungulate
- prey biomass
PubMed: MeSH publication types
- Journal Article