Biodiv Sci ›› 2021, Vol. 29 ›› Issue (8): 1087-1096.DOI: 10.17520/biods.2021012

• Original Papers: Animal Diversity • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Autumn-winter habitat selection by the re-wild Milu (Elaphurus davidianus) at the early stage after release in Dongting Lake Wetland, China

Xin Xia1, Jing Ren1, Li Li2, Haiyan Wang1, Yucheng Song3, Daode Yang1,*(), Zhigang Jiang4,5,*()   

  1. 1 Institute of Wildlife Conservation, Central South University of Forestry and Technology, Changsha 410004
    2 Hunan Wildlife Rescue and Breeding Center, Changsha 410116
    3 Administration of Eastern Dongting Lake National Nature Reserve, Yueyang, Hunan 414000
    4 Key Laboratory of Animal Ecology and Conservation Biology, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101
    5 College of Life Sciences, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049
  • Received:2021-01-09 Accepted:2021-05-19 Online:2021-08-20 Published:2021-07-28
  • Contact: Daode Yang,Zhigang Jiang

Abstract:

Purpose: For restoring the once extinct Milu (Elaphurus davidianus, Père David's deer), the wild management authority in China launched a Milu rewilding project in the Dongting Lake area, Hunan Province, China in 2016. We carried the study to investigate how the re-wild Milu select habitat in the field release area in autumn and winter.

Method: In March 2016, 16 Milu individuals (11 of them fitted with GPS collars) from the Jiangsu Dafeng Milu National Nature Reserve were released into the wild of Junshan Houhu in Hunan East Dongting Lake National Nature Reserve. From October 2016 to January 2017, with the aid of GPS satellite tracking and ground tracking of field released Milu, we used the quadrat method to study the autumn/winter habitat selection by the released Milu. Nine habitat variables were measured in the both Milu-used quadrats and non-used quadrats: habitat type, food abundance, herbage coverage, arbor coverage, distance to water, distance to road, distance to human settlement, distance to shelter, and hidden level.

Results: (1) There was a significant difference in the selection of habitat types by the re-wild Milu between autumn and winter. In autumn, the re-wild Milu appeared to select habitat randomly, whereas they preferred the habitats near ponds and used the herbage swamp randomly, avoiding shrub-grass habitats. (2) There were significant differences in selection for food abundance, herbage coverage, arbor coverage, distance to road, distance to human settlement, distance to shelter, and the hidden level by the re-wild Milu between autumn and winter. There was no significant difference in selection for distance to water. (3) In autumn, the re-wild Milu preferred those habitats that of lower hidden level, higher food abundance, higher herbage coverage, and closer to shelter. There was a significant difference in hidden levels between used quadrats and control (non-used) quadrats in both seasons. Additionally, there were significant differences in the selection for food abundance, herbage coverage, and distance to shelter overall. There were no significant differences in the selection of distance to water, arbor coverage, distance to road, and distance to human settlement. (4) In winter, the re-wild Milu preferred those habitats that are closer to water, with higher food abundance, or higher herbage coverage. There were significant differences in food abundance, herbage coverage, and distance to water between used quadrats and non-used quadrats, but there were no significant differences in distance to road, distance to human settlement, distance to shelter, or hidden level.

Conclusion: The study revealed the differences in habitat selection by the re-wild Milu in autumn and winter, which provide baseline data for habitat management of Milu rewilding in the wetlands of Dongting Lake.

Key words: Milu (Elaphurus davidianus), Père David's deer, rewilding, species reintroduction, habitat selection, satellite tracking