[en] Cattle ; Cattle-wild herbivores Competition ; Wild Ungulate community ; West Africa ; spatial statistics ; Wild ungulates distribution
[en] Traditional rangelands in many developing countries are currently being encroached by cultivation, driving some herders to illegally use protected areas for grazing their cattle. Since cattle are an exotic species in these ecosystems, they might have an impact on the local wild herbivore communities, notably through competition. We used point pattern statistics to characterise the spatial relationships between wild ungulate species and cattle herds within a protected area in west Africa undergoing seasonal intrusions by cattle. We predicted that the wild ungulate species that are ecologically and morphologically similar to cattle, in terms of body mass and diet, would be more sensitive to grass depletion by cattle and would be separated from cattle to a larger extent. The spatial distribution of browsing and mixed-feeding antelopes did not seem to be affected much by cattle presence, whereas most grazing species showed spatial separation from cattle. Interestingly, elephants also showed significant separation from cattle herds. We discuss the likely processes that may have contributed to the observed spatial patterns. Thespatial displacement of certain wild species, including megaherbivores, affects the whole community structure and, thus, other components of the ecosystem.