Distribution pattern of five wild herbivores analysed

A new study has assessed distribution patterns of five wild herbivores adjoining tiger reserves in Karnataka which it claims will help conservationists plan protection of these species "better".

PTI| Last Updated: Sep 06, 2015, 16:09 PM IST

New Delhi: A new study has assessed distribution patterns of five wild herbivores adjoining tiger reserves in Karnataka which it claims will help conservationists plan protection of these species "better".

The study done by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) India Program stated that since many of these species overlap with people sharing habitats outside the protected areas (PAs), they are vulnerable to poachers and are prone to conflict with people.

"A new scientific study by the WCS 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," a WCS statement said.

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 tiger reserves.

"Securing wild species will require understanding their movement and distribution beyond man-made boundaries and plan conservation measures accordingly," said Krithi K Karanth, the sole author of the study and associate conservation scientist at WCS.

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

The study titled "Wildlife in a matrix: spatio-temporal patterns of herbivore occurrence in Karnataka, India" said that out of the five species, 'gaur' was the least wide ranging and pigs the most wide-ranging species.

Forest cover influenced distribution of all five species and distance from the tiger reserve 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, the study pointed out.

Using the data collected, the study produced predictive maps of occupancy of all five species around the five tiger reserve 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.

"Additionally, conservation monitoring in areas favoured by species particularly in summers or when crops are growing and managing them strategically will help minimise human-wildlife conflicts," said Karanth.

A parallel study by Karanth and others in 2013 had found that 64 per cent of households reported experiencing crop loss to wildlife and losses were similar across the five tiger reserves.