Index of Relative Importance of the Dietary Proportions of Sloth Bear (Melursus ursinus) in Semi-Arid Region
Characterisations of the Sloth bear (Melursus ursinus) diet during three distinguished seasons (monsoon, winter and summer) in the semi-arid region of western India was under study. Diet was estimated using scat analysis, based on the calculation of Index of Relative Importance (IRI) in order to determine the contribution of different food items in the Sloth bear diet. Sloth bears were observed to feed on a wide variety of prey items. They are specialized on insect prey, particularly termites or ants, and are considered as myrmecophagous. The myrmecophagousis character was confirmed by the highest score of insect part (IRI = 21.37) from the samples (n = 566), which was followed by Diospyros melanoxylon (IRI Score 13.51), Ficus spp. (IRI score 12.69) and Cassia fistula (IRI Score 10.13). Sloth bear dietary proportions varied among the three seasons under the study interval. Data suggested that the Sloth bear is essentially behaving as an omnivore, having similar diet (in terms of high incidence of wild fruits and insects) with the bears inhabiting semi-arid regions. The opportunistic and generalist strategy of selecting diet ingredients has probably helped the species to survive in semi-arid habitat across the North Gujarat.
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