Morphometric characterization of fecal pellets of selected wild herbivores in Lake Mburo National Park
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Wildlife species can be identified based on their dung but this approach requires experience and may not be helpful to people with little or no experience most especially in cases where species have dung that is generally similar in shape and size. Ability to correctly identify species using dung can be enhanced using digital tools and this can facilitate research, management and tourism activities in and outside protected areas. Lake Mburo National Park is one of the protected areas in Uganda with a diversity of wild herbivores some of which are difficult to identify based on their dung. Particularly, this study aimed at morphometrically characterizing fecal pellets of four selected species namely: Impala, Topi, Waterbuck, and Common Eland. These species are found in LMNP and the parameters used to characterize their fecal pellets were; area, perimeter, elongation and roundness. For each species, images of fifteen pellets were processed to estimate, in pixels, the different parameters using MATLAB® software. Comparisons for differences among parameter estimates for different species were analyzed using Microsoft Excel. Sharpness and concavity of pointed and concave ends, respectively, of pellets were also qualitatively described. Results showed that fecal pellets of Common Eland and those of Impala have the largest and lowest mean areas respectively; fecal pellets of Waterbuck and those of Impala have the highest and lowest perimeters respectively; fecal pellets of Waterbuck and those of Common Eland are the most and least elongated respectively; and fecal pellets of Common Eland and those of Waterbuck have the highest and lowest roundness respectively. Area is useful in differentiating fecal pellets of Impala from the rest; perimeter in singling out fecal pellets of Impala and those of Waterbuck from the rest; and both elongation and roundness in differentiating fecal pellets of Waterbuck from the rest.