Individual study: Responses of tiger Panthera tigris and prey to removal of gujjar pastoralists in Rajaji National Park, Uttarakhand, India
Harihar A., Pandav B. & Goyal S.P. (2008) Responses of tiger (Panthera tigris) and their prey to removal of anthropogenic influences in Rajaji National Park, India. European Journal of Wildlife Research, 97-105
In India, most nature reserves are not large enough to ensure the long-term conservation of tiger Panthera tigris populations, added to which human settlements (and associated livestock) are frequently present in protected areas with potential negative consequences for tigers and other wildlife. A study was undertaken in the Chilla range of Rajaji National Park, in the northwest of the Terai-Arc Landscape (a global priority tiger conservation landscape) of northern Indian. The objective was to assess responses of tiger and main prey populations following the voluntary resettlement of gujjar families (nomadic pastoralists) and their livestock.
Northwest India: The study was undertaken during 2004 to 2007 in the Chilla forest range (148 kmÂ²) in the east of Rajaji National Park (820 km²), Uttarkhand state.
Resettlement program: A successful voluntary resettlement program was initiated in 2003 by the Uttarakhand Forest Department in the Chilla range, with 193 gujjar families (and c.3,000 livestock, mainly buffalo Bubalus bubalis) resettled in the nearby Chidiyapur range.
Tiger and prey abundances: Following resettlement, surveys were undertaken (December 2004 to February 2007) to estimate and monitor the population density of tigers, wild ungulates and other prey species; distance sampling along line transects was used to estimate prey densities and camera traps (30 trapping stations) to estimate tiger density.
Prey densities: Density estimates of six principal prey species (sambar Cervus unicolor, chital Axis axis, nilgai Boselaphus tragocamelus, wild pig Sus scrofa, peafowl Pavo cristatus and common langur Semnopithecus entellus) were made each year. Estimated average total prey species density was 93 individuals/km², with most (71%) being wild ungulates (66 individuals/km²; chital and sambar contributing >91%).
Prey densities remained similar across the 3 years. However, since 2004, a recovery in the population of chital in terms of increased reproductive success (i.e. an increase in proportion of chital fawns observed) was apparent following livestock removal.
Tiger density: There was an increase in the tiger density (from 3 to 5/100 km²), within a short period following removal of people and livestock, probably via tigers immigrating from nearby Corbett Tiger Reserve, and there was evidence of breeding.
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