- Journal ArticleIn pressMixed fortunes: old expansion and recent decline in population size of a subtropical montane primate, the Arunachal macaquePLoS One
- Journal ArticleIn pressGoral Nemorhaedus goralIn: A. J. T. Johnsingh and N. Manjrekar (eds.) Mammals of South Asia: ecology, behaviour and conservation. Permanent Black, Delhi.
- Journal ArticleIn pressSerow Nemorhaedus sumatraensisIn: A. J. T. Johnsingh and N. Manjrekar (eds.) Mammals of South Asia: ecology, behaviour and conservation. Permanent Black, Delhi.
- Book ChapterIn pressConflicts over snow leopard conservation and livestock productionConservation Conflicts, Redpath S, Young J, Gutierrez R, Wood K (eds.), Cambridge University Press.
- Book ChapterIn pressTop-down or bottom-up: the role of the government and local institutions in regulating shifting cultivation in the Upper Siang district, Eastern Himalaya, India (in press)Shifting Cultivation and Environmental Change: Indigenous People, Agriculture and Forest Conservation (Ed: Malcolm Cairns), Published by Routledge.
- Journal ArticleIn pressIrrigation demands aggravate fishing threats to river dolphins in NepalBiological Conservation, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2016.10.026Download
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Riverine species are adapted to natural habitat changes caused by seasonal flood-pulses. However, abrupt river channel changes following flooding events intersect with social systems of land and water management (e.g. agriculture, fisheries) and in turn generate significant consequences for conservation of endangered aquatic species. We investigated tradeoffs between changing river habitat availability and exposure to fishing intensity for a small population of Ganges River dolphins Platanista gangetica gangeticain the Karnali basin of Nepal. A major natural flooding event in the Karnali basin in 2010 caused the river channel to shift from the Geruwa (flows through a protected area where fishing is restricted) to the Karnali channel (high fishing activity, agriculture-dominated), where dolphins moved in response. Based on our survey data (2009–2015) and long-term hydrological trends in the basin, we found that irrigation diversions since 2012 had aggravated fishing impacts on dolphins, suggesting that their new habitat had become an ‘ecological trap’. Regression models showed that at low river depths, fishing intensity negatively affected dolphin abundance, but at higher depths no effect of fishing was observed. Two records of dolphin bycatch in gillnets confirmed this, as both events corresponded with periods of sudden increase in water abstraction for irrigation. Overall, dolphin distribution shifted downstream and the population declined from 11 in 2012 to 6 in 2015. Effective protection of this river dolphin population from extinction will require the Government of Nepal to prioritize ecologically adequate river flow regimes for implementing efficient irrigation schemes and adaptive fisheries regulations in the Karnali basin.
- Journal ArticleIn pressHunting or habitat? Drivers of waterbird abundance and community structure in agricultural wetlands of southern IndiaAmbio, DOI: 10.1007/s13280-017-0907-9
The relative impacts of hunting and habitat on waterbird community were studied in agricultural wetlands of southern India. We surveyed wetlands to document waterbird community, and interviewed hunters to document hunting intensity, targeted species, and the motivations for hunting. Our results show that hunting leads to drastic declines in waterbird diversity and numbers, and skew the community towards smaller species. Hunting intensity, water spread, and vegetation cover were the three most important determinants of waterbird abundance and community structure. Species richness, density of piscivorous species, and medium-sized species (31–65 cm) were most affected by hunting. Out of 53 species recorded, 47 were hunted, with a preference for larger birds. Although illegal, hunting has increased in recent years and is driven by market demand. This challenges the widely held belief that waterbird hunting in India is a low intensity, subsistence activity, and undermines the importance of agricultural wetlands in waterbird conservation.
- Journal Article2017Commensal in conflict: Livestock depredation patterns by free-ranging domestic dogs in the Upper Spiti Landscape, Himachal Pradesh, IndiaAmbio: doi:10.1007/s13280-016-0858-6Download
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In human-populated landscapes worldwide, domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) are the most abundant terrestrial carnivore. Although dogs have been used for the protection of livestock from wild carnivores, they have also been implicated as predators of livestock. We used a combination of methods (field surveys, interview surveys, and data from secondary sources) to examine the patterns and factors driving livestock depredation by free-ranging dogs, as well as economic losses to local communities in a Trans-Himalayan agro-pastoralist landscape in India. Our results show that livestock abundance was a better predictor of depredation in the villages than local dog abundance. Dogs mainly killed small-bodied livestock and sheep were the most selected prey. Dogs were responsible for the majority of livestock losses, with losses being comparable to that by snow leopards. This high level of conflict may disrupt community benefits from conservation programs and potentially undermine the conservation efforts in the region through a range of cascading effects.
- Journal Article2017Alternative reproductive tactics and inverse size-assortment in a high-density fish spawning aggregationBMC Ecology, 17:10, DOI 10.1186/s12898-017-0120-5Download
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Mating successfully at high densities often requires species to employ unusual reproductive tactics. We report unique courtship behaviours in an un shed, high-density spawning aggregation of squaretail groupers (Plectropomus areolatus) that are potentially associated with alternative reproductive tactics (ARTs). Aggregating males are typically known to court females in small territories (pair courtship), which is often associated with a pair-spawning tactic. However, we also observed the largest males simultaneously courting several females in mid-water shoals – a unique, high-cost-high-benefit courtship tactic which appears to result in a novel school-spawning tactic. Counter-intuitively we observed an inverse size- assortment in individuals–large males courted smaller females and vice-a-versa, likely linked to different pay- offs with competitive ability and local mate density. These unique, high-density behaviours are threatened to be lost, with increasing commercial fishing pressures on the P. areolatus aggregation.
- Popular Article2017Life of PineThe Hindu in School, 8 March
- Journal Article2017From intent to action: A case study for the expansion of tiger conservation from southern IndiaGlobal Ecology and Conservation, 9: 11–20Download
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To conserve a large, wide-ranging carnivore like the tiger, it is critical not only to maintain populations at key habitat sites, but also to enable the persistence of the species across much larger landscapes. To do this, it is important to establish well-linked habitat networks where sites for survival and reproduction of tigers are complemented by opportunities for dispersal and colonization. On the ground, expanding protection to areas with a potential for tiger recovery still remains the means of operationalizing the landscape approach. Yet, while the gazetting of protected areas is necessary to enable this, it is not sufficient. It is essential to benchmark and monitor the process by which establishment of protected areas must necessarily be followed by management changes that enable a recovery of tigers, their prey and their habitats. In this paper, we report a case study from the Cauvery and Malai Mahadeshwara Hills Wildlife Sanctuaries of southern India, where we document the infrastructural and institutional changes that ensued after an unprecedented expansion of protected areas in this landscape. Further, we establish ecological benchmarks of the abundance and distribution of tigers, the relative abundance of their prey, and the status of their habitats, against which the recovery of tigers in this area of vast conservation potential may be assessed over time.
- Popular Article2016The Bay Island Lizard: My Work CompanionsSanctuary Asia, January. http://www.sanctuaryasia.com/magazines/features/10184-the-bay-island-lizard-my-work-companions.html
- 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 Article2016Response of the red fox to expansion of human habitation in the Trans-Himalayan mountainsEuropean Journal of Wildlife Research, 62: 131-136, DOI 10.1007/s10344-015-0967-8Download
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Habitat modification through rural and urban expansions negatively impacts most wildlife species. However, anthropogenic food sources in habitations can benefit certain species. The red fox Vulpes vulpes can exploit anthropogenic food, but human subsidies sometimes also sustain populations of its potential competitor, the free-ranging dog Canis familiaris. As human habitations expand, populations of free-ranging dog are increasing in many areas, with unknown effects on wild commensal species such as the red fox. We examined occurrence and diet of red fox along a gradient of village size in a rural mountainous landscape of the Indian Trans-Himalaya. Diet analyses suggest substantial use of anthropogenic food (livestock and garbage) by red fox. Contribution of livestock and garbage to diet of red fox declined and increased, respectively, with increasing village size. Red fox occurrence did not show a clear relationship with village size. Red fox occurrence showed weak positive relationships with density of free-ranging dog and garbage availability, respectively, while density of free-ranging dog showed strong positive relationships with village size and garbage availability, respectively. We highlight the potential conservation concern arising from the strong positive association between density of free-ranging dog and village size.
- Dataset2016Data from: Response of the red fox to expansion of human habitation in the Trans-Himalayan mountainshttp://dx.doi.org/10.5061/dryad.5hs50
- Journal Article2016Providing more protected space for tigers Panthera tigris: a landscape conservation approach in the Western Ghats, southern IndiaOryx 50(2): 336–343Download
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Conservation of large carnivores is challenging as they face various threats, including habitat loss and fragmentation. One of the current challenges to tiger Panthera tigris conservation in India is the conversion of habitat to uses that are incompatible with conservation of the species. Bringing more tiger habitat within a protected area system and in the process creating a network of connected protected areas will deliver dual benefits of wildlife conservation and protection of watersheds. Focusing on the southern Indian state of Karnataka, which holds one of the largest contiguous tiger populations, we attempted to address this challenge using a conservation planning technique that considers ecological, social and political factors. This approach yielded several conservation successes, including an expansion of the protected area network by 2,385 sq km, connection of 23 protected areas, and the creation of three complexes of protected areas, increasing the protected area network in Karnataka from 3.8 to 5.2% of the state’s land area. This represents the largest expansion of protected areas in India since the1970s. Such productive partnerships between government officials and conservationists highlight the importance of complementary roles in conservation planning and implementation.
- Book Chapter2016Richness and size distribution of large herbivores in the HimalayaIn: Asian large herbivore ecology, Ahrestani, F., Sankaran, M. (eds.), Springer.Download
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Species diversity across several taxa ranging from plants to vertebrates is reported to decrease with altitude, or to show a mid-elevation peak in mountain systems. Plant biomass availability for herbivores is similarly expected to decline with altitude as temperature becomes limiting. However, the relationship between herbivore species richness and altitude has not been examined in detail. We show that while the overall regional pattern (gamma-richness) for 25 large-herbivore species (56 % grazers, 44 % browsers/mixed feeders) in the Western Himalayas shows a mid-elevation peak, the species richness of grazers increases nearly monotonically with altitude peaking at 4000–5000 m. Median body mass of herbivores decreased with altitude, suggesting greater suitability of higher elevations for smaller bodied herbivores. We propose that seasonal altitudinal migration patterns, biogeographic influences, increases in the abundance of graminoids, and an increase in plant nutrients with altitude might explain the unusual high grazer species richness at higher altitudes in the Himalayan Mountains.
- Popular Article2016The silence of the lambsCaravan, AprilDownload
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A migratory herder in Pin Valley, Himachal Pradesh, goes into a new area with his flock of sheep-goat in search of pasture. Everything was going fine, but then, suddenly, he lost 10-15 of his sheep. How did he and other fellow herders solve the weird challenge of mysterious death of sheep?
- Popular Article2016A four-horned flash of goldThe Hindu in School, 6 January