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I examined the influence of weather and solitary trees on the behaviour and distribution of some African herbivores and vultures. The focal species were Connochaetes taurinus Burchell (blue wildebeest), Equus burchelli Gray (plains zebra), Gazella thomsonii Günther (Thomson’s gazelle) and Gyps spp (griffon vultures). Two field studies were conducted in Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. One study focused on areas of 0.3 km2 that contained between zero and 40 solitary trees (transect study) and the other one focused on these trees with treeless control areas (photo study). The transect study investigated if the number of herbivores and vultures was correlated with the number of solitary trees. The photo study compared the number of animals in nearby small areas, with and without solitary trees respectively. The aim of the study was to investigate if the shade providing solitary trees, which are diminishing in the area, affect animal distribution, but also to get more basic knowledge of how temperature influences behaviour. All focal species were influenced by the solitary trees. The number of E. burchelli, G. thomsonii and Gyps spp. were positively correlated with number of trees. For the two herbivores this correlation was stronger during the heat of the day. On the smaller scale, all species except G. thomsonii preferred tree area over treeless area. It was concluded that the trees were important for C. taurinus, E. burchelli and Gyps spp., but for G. thomsonii it remains unclear.

Key words: Diurnal behaviour, Connochaetes taurinus, distribution, Equus burchelli, Gazella thomsonii, Gyps spp, shade, solitary trees.     


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Last updated: 05/22/06