Foraging Time and Vigilance in Rock Hyrax (Procavia capensis), a Social Forager
Numerous factors affect the foraging ecology of animals, of which group size and foraging habitat have been the most extensively researched. Our study, conducted in Tsavo West National Park, Kenya, examined how different factors alter the foraging behavior of rock hyraxes, Procavia capensis. The main factors investigated were group size, distance from nearest shelter, vegetation cover, and period of the day (morning, midday, afternoon). Our data were collected by observing a hyrax for at least two minutes and tape recording all of the actions performed within that time span, primarily foraging, vigilance, and watching (handling food while scanning for predators). The tapes were later replayed and timed, thereby providing the data needed to calculate the percent time allocated to each activity and the average length of each activity (bout). Of all the variables, we found that group size exhibited the most significant relationships, correlating positively with percent time foraging and negatively with percent time vigilant and watching. Distance from nearest shelter and vegetation cover also had significant relationships with foraging behavior and watching behavior, although not vigilance behavior. Other variables that were recorded (foraging patch, date of observation, size of hyrax, and time of day) were negligible in their correlations, although they did reveal some interesting trends discussed in the paper.
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