Study Maps distribution of Wild Herbivores outside Tiger Reserves in Karnataka

Bengaluru: A new scientific study by the Wildlife Conservation Society India Program has assessed seasonal distribution patterns of five wild herbivores in human-use areas adjoining Tiger Reserves in Karnataka. The findings will help conservation managers better plan protection of these species as well as prevention of conflicts, outside the Tiger Reserves.

Collage of the five subject species

With less than 5% of India’s area designated as protected areas, many wildlife species overlap with people sharing habitats, space and resources. Outside the legal bounds of the PAs, these animals are vulnerable to poachers and are prone to conflicts with people. “Securing wild species will require understanding their movement and distribution beyond man-made boundaries, and plan conservation measures accordingly,” explained the sole author of the study, Dr. Krithi K. Karanth, Associate Conservation Scientist, WCS.

The five target species of this study included elephants, and gaur, sambar, chital and wild pig which form the principal prey for tigers in this landscape. The study surveyed around 7500 sq km area, adjoining Dandeli-Anshi, Bhadra, Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple, Bandipur and Nagarahole Tiger Reserves. To examine the patterns of their occurrence, structured interviews were conducted with 3860 local households in 1565 villages located within 10 km radius of the TRs.

The study further determined how environmental and landscape factors such as forest cover, water availability, elevation, distance from the TR and human population densities influenced this distribution, over space and across seasons.

Of the five species, gaur was the least wide ranging and pigs the most wide-ranging species. As expected, forest cover influenced distribution of all five species, and distance from the TR and human population densities had a negative influence. The study also found that chital was wider ranging during dry seasons and elephants during wet seasons, while the other three species remained unaffected by seasonality. Elevation on the other hand positively impacted elephant and gaur occurrence, and negatively impacted chital occurrence in both seasons. Using the data collected, the study produced predictive maps of occupancy of all five species around the five TRs, during the dry and wet seasons.

“This approach assessing and mapping of species distributions is vital to focusing where species protection efforts need to be targeted and determining which habitat areas need to be monitored to ensure species can move freely,” added Dr. Karanth. “Additionally, conservation monitoring in areas favoured by species particularly in summers or when crops are growing, and managing them strategically will help minimize human-wildlife conflicts.”

A parallel study by Karanth and others in 2013, found that 64% of households reported experiencing crop loss to wildlife and losses were similar across the five TRs. The work was supported by grants from National Geographic Society, Rufford Foundation and the Indian Government.

For more details, please contact Dr Krithi K Karanth at: krithi.karanth@gmail.com; 9900902041

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