- Journal Article2018Hornbill Watch: A citizen science initiative for Indian hornbillsIndian Birds, 14:65-70Download
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Hornbills are conspicuous and well-known birds with nine species occurring in India. While several hornbill species have been studied extensively in some parts of India, there is a knowledge gap about their distribution, population size, and adaptations to rapidly changing habitats. Most research and conservation efforts are often focused on single or few species within protected areas. Hornbill Watch (henceforth, HW) is an online platform created specifically to record public sightings of hornbills from anywhere in India. The idea is to encourage birders, nature enthusiasts, and photographers to share information on hornbill presence, behaviour, and conservation-related issues. The main objective is to generate baseline information using sight records and enable long-term monitoring of these species by encouraging citizen participation. HW was launched in June 2014, and up to February 2017 had received 938 records from 430 contributors across India, from 26 States and three Union Territories. States from where most sightings were reported were Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Assam, and Arunachal Pradesh. Species were reported from both inside (41%), and outside Protected Areas (59%; henceforth, PA). Hornbills were reported from 70 PAs. Fifty-one records of nesting were reported for all species from inside and outside PAs, while 27 records of communal roosting were reported for some species. The data obtained thus far has yielded some useful information and insights,and has the potential for enhancing our understanding of current hornbill distribution patterns, and for identifying important sites for conservation/protection.
- Journal Article2018Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris in Anini, Arunachal PradeshIndian Birds 14(3): 90
- Journal Article2016Field to a forest: Patterns of forest recovery following shifting cultivation in the Eastern HimalayaForest Ecology & Management http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2016.01.006
The patterns of vegetation recovery in shifting cultivation landscapes that undergo a cycle of clearing, cultivation and forest regeneration are not well understood in Asian tropical forests. We determined for- est recovery patterns by comparing species composition, richness and forest structure in early and late fallows formed following shifting cultivation and in an uncut forest site in a mid-elevation subtropical forest in the Indian Eastern Himalaya. We also examined changes in functional traits of tree species to understand recovery processes with succession. Tree species richness in the 12, 25 and 50-year old sites was 37%, 54% and 82% the value of the richness in uncut forest, respectively, while basal area was 33%, 25% and 41% of the value in uncut forest, respectively. Species composition recovery, however, was low; with even the oldest fallow (50-year fallow) being less than 50% similar to uncut forest in terms of composition. Successional sites that recover over long periods may differ compositionally from uncut forest within a shifting cultivation landscape as these forests are often prone to other anthropogenic dis- turbances. Functional trait analysis revealed that early fallows were colonized by tree species that are animal-dispersed, insect-pollinated with small fruits and seeds, whereas uncut forest and late succes- sional forests were dominated by species that were tall, self-dispersed, wind-pollinated and of high wood density that are dominant mature forest species in the Himalaya. These results are in contrast with the patterns in functional traits of tree species in successional sites from the Neotropics. This points to the importance of site-specificity in succession following shifting cultivation.
- Journal Article2016Shifting to settled cultivation: Changing practices among the Adis in Central Arunachal Pradesh, north-east IndiaAmbio doi 10.1007/s13280-016-0765-x
In the hilly tropics, although shifting cultivation is a widespread practice, government policies have attempted to replace it with other land-uses. However, several factors determine whether farming communities can make the shift. We tried understanding the factors that facilitate or impede the shift to settled cultivation through interviews with the Adi tribe in north-east India. Although settled cultivation was initiated in the sixties, about 90 % of the families practice shifting cultivation, observing 13 festivals associated with the annual agricultural calendar. Our results indicate that the economic status of a household affected the ability to undertake settled cultivation, while labour availability is important for shifting cultivation. Often, these nuances are ignored in government policies. We conclude that future policies should be mindful of cultural and socio-economic factors that affect the community and of the social-ecological resilience of the landscapes and not use a one-size-fits-all strategy.
- Journal Article2016Abundance estimates of the Rufous-necked hornbill (Aceros nipalensis), and characterisation of a montane subtropical forest in the Indian Eastern Himalaya.Indian Birds, Vol. 12, 4 & 5 14 November 2016
- Journal Article2015Looking beyond parks: the conservation value of unprotected areas for hornbills in Arunachal Pradesh, Eastern HimalayaOryx, 49:303-311Download
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The loss of tropical forests and associated biodiversity is a global concern. Conservation efforts in tropical countries such as India have mostly focused on state-administered protected areas despite the existence of vast tracts of forest outside these areas. We studied hornbills (Bucerotidae), an ecologically important vertebrate group and a flagship for tropical forest conservation, to assess the importance of forests outside protected areas in Arunachal Pradesh, north-east India. We conducted a state-wide survey to record encounters with hornbills in seven protected areas, six state-managed reserved forests and six community-managed unclassed forests. We estimated the density of hornbills in one protected area, four reserved forests and two unclassed forests in eastern Arunachal Pradesh. The state-wide survey showed that the mean rate of encounter of rufous-necked hornbills Aceros nipalensis was four times higher in protected areas than in reserved forests and 22 times higher in protected areas than in unclassed forests. The mean rate of encounter of wreathed hornbills Rhyticeros undulatus was twice as high in protected areas as in reserved forests and eight times higher in protected areas than in unclassed forests. The densities of rufous-necked hornbill were higher inside protected areas, whereas the densities of great hornbill Buceros bicornis and wreathed hornbill were similar inside and outside protected areas. Key informant surveys revealed possible extirpation of some hornbill species at sites in two protected areas and three unclassed forests. These results highlight a paradoxical situation where individual populations of hornbills are being lost even in some legally protected habitat, whereas they continue to persist over most of the landscape. Better protection within protected areas and creative community- based conservation efforts elsewhere are necessary to maintain hornbill populations in this biodiversity-rich region.
- Journal Article2015Seed dispersal by avian frugivores: non-random heterogeneity at fine scales.Biotropica 47(1): 77-84.Download
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Seed dispersal studies have primarily examined dispersal as a function of distance from the parent tree and/or heterogeneity in dispersal due to animal use of nesting, roosting and sleeping sites. However, non-random heterogeneity in seed dispersal is also likely to result from the post-foraging behavior and movement of frugivores which prefer certain trees. To characterize variation in seed rain at fine scales, we studied the dispersal curve of Prunus ceylanica, a primarily bird-dispersed species. We compared seed rain at conspecifics, heterospecific fruiting trees with similar frugivore assemblages, emergent trees, and the landscape surrounding these trees. Seed rain of P. ceylanica was found to peak globally under the canopy of conspecifics but to peak locally under the canopy and immediate neighborhood of heterospecific fruiting trees. Our results demonstrate that seed rain is highly clumped even at fine spatial scales. A large proportion of seeds are dispersed in specific, localized regions. This variation can have important implications for plant population dynamics and might significantly alter the impact of post-dispersal processes. Seed dispersal models may need to incorporate this heterogeneity to explain manifestations of spatially explicit dynamics like mixed species ‘orchards’.
- Journal Article2015Protecting a hornbill haven: a community-based conservation initiative in Arunachal Pradesh, north-east IndiaMalayan Nature Journal, 67 (2): 203-218
- Journal Article2015Fruit resource tracking by hornbill species at multiple scales in a tropical forest in IndiaJournal of Tropical Ecology, 31:477-490Download
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The fruit-tracking hypothesis predicts a positive association between frugivores and fruit abundance over space and time.We documented hornbill diets and examined the relationship between fruit abundance and abundance of three hornbill species (Buceros bicornis, Rhyticeros undulatus and Aceros nipalensis) in the Eastern Himalaya from 2009– 2012. The study was carried out at three scales: at the largest scale of the study area (15km2), at the intermediate scale – eight 3-ha patches within the study area and at the smallest scale of individual fruiting trees.Ninety-one per cent of the 64 foraging sightings of the great hornbill were on figs while more than 50% of the foraging sightings of the wreathed (83) and rufous-necked hornbills (87) were on non-fig fruits. At the largest scale, wreathed hornbill abundance and ripe fruit abundance peaked in the non-breeding season. At the intermediate scale, wreathed hornbill abundance was positively associated with non-fig fruit availability while rufous-necked hornbill abundance was negatively associated with non-fig fruit availability. At the smallest scale, great and rufous-necked hornbill abundances were correlatedwith fig and non-fig fruit crop sizes, respectively. The three hornbill species track fruit availability at different scales based on diet, which has implications for their role in seed dispersal.
- Journal Article2015Reduced hornbill abundance associated with low seed arrival and altered recruitment in a hunted and logged tropical forestPLOSOne; DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0120062
Logging and hunting are two key direct threats to the survival of wildlife in the tropics, and also disrupt important ecosystem processes. We investigated the impacts of these two factors on the different stages of the seed dispersal cycle, including abundance of plants and their dispersers and dispersal of seeds and recruitment, in a tropical forest in north-east India. We focused on hornbills, which are important seed dispersers in these forests, and their food tree species. We compared abundances of hornbill food tree species in a site with high logging and hunting pressures (heavily disturbed) with a site that had no logging and relatively low levels of hunting (less disturbed) to understand logging impacts on hornbill food tree abundance. We compared hornbill abundances across these two sites. We, then, compared the scatter-dispersed seed arrival of five large-seeded tree species and the recruitment of four of those species. Abundances of hornbill food trees that are preferentially targeted by logging were two times higher in the less disturbed site as compared to the heavily disturbed site while that of hornbills was 22 times higher. The arrival of scatter-dispersed seeds was seven times higher in the less disturbed site. Abundances of recruits of two tree species were significantly higher in the less disturbed site. For another species, abundances of younger recruits were significantly lower while that of older recruits were higher in the heavily disturbed site. Our findings suggest that logging reduces food plant abundance for an important frugivore-seed disperser group, while hunting diminishes disperser abundances, with an associated reduction in seed arrival and altered recruitment of animal-dispersed tree species in the disturbed site. Based on our results, we present a conceptual model depicting the relationships and pathways between vertebrate-dispersed trees, their dispersers, and the impacts of hunting and logging on these pathways.
- Journal Article2015Tracking seed fates of tropical tree species: evidence for seed caching in a tropical forest in north-east IndiaPLoS ONEDOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0134658
Rodents affect the post-dispersal fate of seeds by acting either as on-site seed predators or as secondary dispersers when they scatter-hoard seeds. The tropical forests of north-east India harbour a high diversity of little-studied terrestrial murid and hystricid rodents. We examined the role played by these rodents in determining the seed fates of tropical evergreen tree species in a forest site in north-east India. We selected ten tree species (3 mammal-dispersed and 7 bird-dispersed) that varied in seed size and followed the fates of 10,777 tagged seeds. We used camera traps to determine the identity of rodent visitors, visitation rates and their seed-handling behavior. Seeds of all tree species were handled by at least one rodent taxon. Overall rates of seed removal (44.5%) were much higher than direct on-site seed predation (9.9%), but seed-handling behavior differed between the terrestrial rodent groups: two species of murid rodents removed and cached seeds, and two species of porcupines were on-site seed predators. In addition, a true cricket,Brachytrupessp., cached seeds of three species underground. We found 309 caches formed by the rodents and the cricket; most were single-seeded (79%) and seeds were moved up to 19 m. Over 40% of seeds were re-cached from primary cache locations, while about 12% germinated in the primary caches. Seed removal rates varied widely amongst tree species, from 3% inBeilschmiedia assamicato 97% inActinodaphne obovata. Seed predation was observed in nine species.Chisocheton cumingianus(57%) andPrunus ceylanica(25%) had moderate levels of seed predation while the remaining species had less than 10% seed predation. We hypothesized that seed traits that provide information on resource quantity would influence rodent choice of a seed, while traits that determine resource accessibility would influence whether seeds are removed or eaten. Removal rates significantly decreased (p< 0.001) while predation rates increased (p= 0.06) with seed size. Removal rates were significantly lower for soft seeds (p= 0.002), whereas predation rates were significantly higher on soft seeds (p= 0.01). Our results show that murid rodents play a very important role in affecting the seed fates of tropical trees in the Eastern Himalayas. We also found that the different rodent groups differed in their seed handling behavior and responses to changes in seed characteristics.
- Journal Article2013First record of Tristram's Bunting Emberiza tristrami from IndiaIndian Birds 8:134-135
- Journal Article2013Phenology, seed dispersal and regeneration patterns of Horsfieldia kingii, a rare wild nutmegTropical Conservation Science, 6 (5): 674-689.
We present observational data on the flowering and fruiting patterns, seed dispersal, seedling recruitment and survival of a dioecious Myristicaceae species, Horsfieldia kingii, that occurs in the tropical forests of Arunachal Pradesh. Horsfieldia is rare (1 tree ha1) with a scattered distribution; Horsfieldia trees did not flower every year, and flowering was staggered from April to July. Peak ripe fruit availability of Horsfieldia is from February to March. Failure of fruiting occurred in most years, and only 0-33% of sampled trees bore ripe fruits. Initiation of hornbill breeding coincides with the ripe fruit availability of this species. The percentage of hornbill nests in which nesting is initiated each year varies from 50 to 100% of nests, and our results show a significant positive relationship between the percentage of hornbill nests that are active in a given year and the contribution of the species to hornbill diet (n = 6 years). However, the overall contribution to the breeding season diet of hornbills is very low because of poor fruit availability in most years, resulting in limited seed dispersal at nests. Recruitment and survival of Horsfieldia seedlings below parent trees and hornbill nest trees were low; however, seedling survival was marginally higher at nest trees, suggesting that dispersal by hornbills even in a spatially contagious manner may be critical for this species. However, current recruitment of Horsfieldia at hornbill nests (2010) is significantly lower than at parent trees. This species appears to be seed-limited, while dispersal limitation may play a secondary role in determining its abundance.
- Journal Article2013Spatial and temporal variation in hornbill densities in Namdapha Tiger Reserve, Arunachal Pradesh, north-east IndiaTropical Conservation Science 6:734-748Download
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Asian hornbill populations are declining across their ranges because of hunting and deforestation. Five of the 32 Asian hornbill species occur in north-east India. However, vital information on their abundance from the region remains scanty. Understanding spatiotemporal variation in densities provides crucial information for formulating effective conservation strategies based on species-specific abundance patterns and population trends. We examined spatiotemporal variation in densities of four hornbill species in the Namdapha Tiger Reserve, a site identified as an important site for hornbill conservation in Asia. We collected data through variable-width line transect sampling (effort=842.1 km) in the non-breeding season from 2009-12 to estimate hornbill densities. We had 458 detections of four hornbill species. We have estimated White-throated Brown Hornbill densities (7.9 birds/km2) for the first time throughout its entire range. The mean Rufous-necked Hornbill densities (6.9 birds/km2) were higher than those reported elsewhere. Great (3.9 birds/km2) and Wreathed Hornbill (16.1 birds/km2) densities were comparable with other sites. The peak densities of all hornbill species in November-December are among the highest reported from Asia. Wreathed Hornbill densities showed temporal variation peaking in November-December (68 birds/km2) and drastically declining by March-April (1.3 birds/km2), indicating seasonal altitudinal movement to low elevation areas outside the reserve during the breeding season. Our results underscored the spatial variation in hornbill distribution, with low densities of Great and the White-throated Brown hornbills in higher elevations. Our study demonstrates the global importance of Namdapha for hornbills, given its large area and high densities of four hornbill species.
- Journal Article2013Records of small carnivores from in and around Namdapha Tiger Reserve, Arunachal Pradesh, India.Small Carnivore Conservation 49: 1-8.Download
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For most of Northeast India’s diverse assemblage of small carnivores, direct observations and ecological information are limited. Opportunistic direct observations and camera-trap records from 2008 to 2013 in eastern Arunachal Pradesh recorded 11 small carnivore species of the 20 likely to occur. Observations included the first confirmed Small-toothed Palm Civet Arctogalidia trivirgata sighting from India; dietary observations of five species and hunting of two species.
- Journal Article2010The birds of Namdapha National Park: recent significant records and a checklist of the species.Forktail 26: 108-132.
- Journal Article2009Observations on Rufous-necked Aceros nipalensis and Brown Anorrhinus austeni Hornbills in Arunachal Pradesh: natural history, conservation status and threats.Indian Birds 5: 108-117.Download
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Among the five species of hornbills that occur in north-eastern India, the least studied are the endangered Rufous-necked Hornbill Aceros nipalensis, and the Brown Hornbill Anorrhinus austeni, which has a restricted distribution in India. Based on field surveys conducted in Namdapha National Park, and several forest divisions in eastern Arunachal Pradesh, during 1996–1999 and 2002–2004, I present information on their distribution and relative abundance. I also present some information on diet, flock sizes, canopy levels used, breeding biology, and nesting records for both these species.
- Journal Article2009Effects of rodents on seed fates of hornbill-dispersed tree species in a tropical forest in north-east India.J. Tropical Ecology 25: 507-514.
- Journal Article2008Empty forests: Large carnivore and prey abundance in Namdapha National Park, north-east IndiaBiological Conservation 141: 1429-1435.Download
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Illegal hunting poses a dual threat to large carnivores through direct removal of individuals and by prey depletion. We conducted a camera-trapping survey in the Namdapha National Park, north-east India, conducted as part of a programme to evaluate carnivore and prey species abundance. Clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) was the only large carnivore detected by camera-trapping. Indirect evidences indicated the presence of the wild dog (Cuon alpinus) and leopard (Panthera pardus), however, there was no evidence of tigers (Panthera tigris), suggesting their possible extinction from the lower elevation forests. Of the major ungulate prey species, sambar (Cervus unicolor) and wild pig (Sus scrofa) were the only large prey detected, while the Indian muntjac (Muntiacus muntjak) was the only small prey species detected. Relative abundances of all species were appreciably lower than estimates from other tropical forests in south-east Asia. We suspect that illegal hunting may be the cause for the low carnivore and prey species abundance. An ongoing community-based conservation programme presents an opportunity to reduce local people’s dependence on hunting by addressing their socio-economic needs and for using their skills and knowl- edge of the landscape for wildlife conservation. However, long-term wildlife monitoring is essential to assess the efficacy of the socio-economic interventions in bringing about wild- life recovery.
- Journal Article2008Molecular evidence for the occurrence of the leaf deer Muntiacus putaoensis in Arunachal Pradesh, north-east India.Conservation Genetics 9: 927-931Download
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The discovery of the leaf deer Muntiacus putaoensis in northern Myanmar has added to the growing list of large mammals recently discovered in remote, unex- plored parts of south and south-east Asia. Its subsequent discovery in eastern Arunachal Pradesh, India, based on morphometric analyses of two skulls collected from local hunters, doubled the size of its known east-west range, which is significant for a newly-discovered and poorly understood species. However, ambiguity remained regarding several other partial skulls and dried skin samples collected during subsequent surveys. The sympatric occurrence of the Indian muntjac Muntiacus muntjak further complicates species identification based primarily on morphometry. In this paper, we develop molecular genetic analyses that can unambiguously identify muntjac species. Further, we test and apply our methods to unknown skin samples to confirm the occurrence of the leaf deer in Arunachal Pradesh. Finally, we use our samples and genetic data from three mitochondrial markers to establish phylogenetic affinities between these samples and other extant members of the Muntiacus genus. Our approach, which combines the use of specific primers and phylogenetic analyses, is generally applicable towards the detection of cryptic biodiversity in unexplored and species-rich areas like north-east India.