- 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 Article2008MigrantWatch: A citizen science programme for the study of bird migrationIndian Birds, 3(6) 202-209Download
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What are the consequences of rapid global change for the behaviour and ecology of wild species? Answering this very broad question is a challenging but important task. One relatively manageable question under this broad umbrella is how the timing of biological events (i.e., phenology) is changing as the earth’s climate
changes. In this article, we describe a new programme aimed at assessing the timing of migration of birds that winter in the Indian Subcontinent and monitoring changes in this timing over the long term. MigrantWatch is a volunteer-based programme in which participants record the arrival, presence and departure of migrant species across India. We also outline the goals, structure, and open-access philosophy of the programme, and illustrate its potential by briefly describing information collected on the arrival patterns of winter migrants in the second half of 2007.
- Journal Article2008Diversity, abundance and conservation status of small carnivores in two Protected Areas in Arunachal Pradesh.Small Carnivore Conservation 39: 1-10.
- Journal Article2008In search of the munzala: distribution and conservation status of the newly-discovered Arunachal macaque Macaca munzalaOryx, 42(3): 360–366Download
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The recently-described Arunachal macaque Macaca munzala is so far known only from western Arunachal Pradesh, north-east India. Here we present the first conservation status assessment for the species. Our surveys enumerated a total of 569 individuals in the Tawang and West Kameng districts of the State. The species seems to be tolerant of anthropogenic habitat change but is vulnerable to hunting. A low infant to adult female ratio suggests that not all adult females reproduce at any given time, and females do not give birth every year. The macaques are persecuted largely in response to crop damage, with the practice of keeping them as pets providing an added in- centive to hunting. The species is, however, able to attain remarkably high densities in the absence of hunting. Crop damage by the macaque is widespread; patterns of crop damage are similar across altitudinal zones and do not seem to be correlated with macaque density. The species will need to be protected in human-modified landscapes, and the issues of crop damage and retaliatory persecution need to be addressed urgently.
- Journal Article2008Distributional correlates of the Tibetan gazelle Procapra picticaudata in Ladakh, northern India: towards a recovery programme.Oryx, 42, 107-112.
- Journal Article2008Mammal persistence and abundance in tropical rainforest remnants in the southern Western Ghats, India.Current Science 94: 748-757.
- 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.
- Journal Article2007A new bird species from Eastern Himalayan Arunachal Pradesh – India’s biological frontier.Current Science 92: 1205-1206.
- Journal Article2007Suceeding poorly or failing better?Seminar 577: 53-57
- Journal Article2007A Strategy for Conservation of Tibetan Gazelle Procapra picticaudata in Ladakh.Conservation and Society, 5, 262-276.
- Journal Article2007Phylogenetic relationships and morphometric affinities of the Arunachal macaque Macaca munzala, a newly described primate from Arunachal Pradesh, northeastern IndiaMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 44(2): 838–849Download
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A new species of primate, the Arunachal macaque Macaca munzala, belonging to the sinica species-group of the genus, was described from northeastern India in 2005, and, based on its appearance and distribution, hypothesised to be closely related to M. assamensis and M. thibetana. We subsequently obtained an entire adult male specimen and tissue remains from two other M. munzala individuals. Molecular analyses establish the distinct identity of the species and indicate a time of origin of c. 0.48 mya for it. The species also shows close phylogenetic affinities with the allopatric M. radiata and with the geographically closer M. assamensis and M. thibetana, possibly mediated by male introgression from an ancestral M. assamensis–M. thibetana stock into an ancestral M. munzala stock. Morphometric analyses, on the other hand, reiterate its close similarity only with M. assamensis and M. thibetana, presumably resulting from convergent evolution under similar ecological conditions and along a latitudinal gradient, as predicted by Bergmann’s and Allen’s rules.
- Journal Article2007First Post-tsunami Sighting of the Coconut Crab in the Nicobar IslandsOryx, 41(3) 1-2.
- Journal Article2007Foraging ecology and time-activity budget of the Arunachal macaque Macaca munzala – A preliminary studyCurrent Science, 93 (4): 532
The Arunachal macaque Macaca munzala was discovered in 2003 from the high altitudes of western Arunachal Pradesh, and described as a new species in 2005. Vir- tually nothing is yet known of this new macaque spe- cies. In order to generate scientific knowledge on this primate, a field study was conducted to collect infor- mation on its ranging patterns, diet and behaviour. Two multimale multifemale troops were observed for a pe- riod of 112 h in Zemithang valley, Tawang District. The two troops, consisting of 22 and 13 individuals re- spectively, spent on an average, 48% of the observed time in moving and foraging, 36% in sitting and rest- ing, and 16% in social interactions. Foraging alone accounted for 29% of the time-activity budget and was the major activity of the macaques throughout the study. The troops had home ranges of 28 ha and 16 ha respectively, much smaller than those of other ma- caque species studied in similar environments else- where. The macaques ranged largely in the secondary scrub habitat in the study area, where they were ob- served to feed mainly on Elaeagnus parvifolia and Erythrina arborescens. Although fruits of the former species constituted more than 65.8% of the overall diet, this largely frugivorous diet is likely to be seasonal. Our preliminary results suggest the ranging and forag- ing behaviour of the Arunachal macaque to be largely in response to food resource availability. The species also appears to be a typical member of the sinica spe- cies-group of the genus in exhibiting a matrifocal society with tolerant social relationships.
- Journal Article2007Application of photographic capture-recapture modelling to estimate demographic parameters for male Asian elephantsAnimal Conservation 10: 391-399Download
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In addition to the threats of habitat loss and degradation, adult males of the Asian elephant Elephas maximus also face greater threats from ivory poaching and conflict with humans. To understand the impact of these threats, conservationists need robust estimates of abundance and vital rates specifically for the adult male segment of elephant populations. By integrating the identification of individual male elephants in a population from distinct morphology and natural markings, with modern capture–recapture (CR) sampling designs, it is possible to estimate various demographic parameters that are otherwise difficult to obtain from this long-lived and wide-ranging megaherbivore. In this study, we developed systema- tic individual identification protocols and integrated them into CR sampling designs to obtain capture histories and thereby estimate the abundance of adult bull elephants in a globally important population in southern India. We validated these estimates against those obtained from an independent method combining line-transect density estimates with age–sex composition data for elephants. The sampled population was open to gains and losses between sampling occasions. The abundance of adult males in the 176 km2 study area was N(se N)= 134(14.2) and they comprised 14% ( ± 1%) of the total elephant population. Time-specific abundance estimates for each sampling occasion showed a distinct increase in adult male numbers over the sampling period, explained by seasonal patterns of local migration. CR-based estimates for adult male abundance closely matched estimates from distance-based methods. Thus, while providing abundance data of comparable rigour and precision, photographic CR methods permit estimation of demographic parameters for the Asian elephant that are both urgently needed and difficult to obtain.
- Journal Article2007Pastoral nomads of the Indian Changthang: production system, landuse and socioeconomic changes.Human Ecology, 35, 497-504.
- Journal Article2007Responses of small carnivores to rainforest fragmentation in the southern Western Ghats, India.Small Carnivore Conservation 36: 18-26.
- Journal Article2007Molecular evidence for the occurrence of the leaf deer Muntiacus putaoensis in Arunachal Pradesh, north-east India.Conservation Genetics, doi 10.1007/s 10592-007-9410-3.
- Journal Article2006Local processes strongly influence post-bleaching benthic recovery in the Lakshadweep IslandsCoral Reefs. 25: 427-440Download
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The atoll reefs of the Lakshadweep, in the Indian Ocean suffered a catastrophic mortality of hard coral in the wake of the El Niño event of 1998. This study tracked changes to coral and other benthic elements in three atolls in the Lakshadweep from 2000 to 2003. The recovery of coral was highly site-specific, and appeared to be driven by differences in post-settlement survival of coral recruits, that were in turn, influenced by the local hydrodynamics of the atolls. Post bleaching recovery was highest on west-facing reefs, while recovery on east-facing reefs was very limited. However, no ‘phase-shift’ to macroalgal dominated reefs was evident. High herbivore pressures were perhaps the most important control of macroalgae. Five years after the mass mortality, the genera that showed the maximum gains represented a mix of different susceptibilities to bleaching, while some genera that were not particularly susceptible to bleaching showed significant declines. These results suggest that decline or recovery of coral is likely dependent on individual life history strategies, post-recruitment survival, and contingency.
- Journal Article2006Distribution and conservation status of the Arunachal macaque Macaca munzala in western Arunachal Pradesh, northeastern IndiaPrimate Conservation 21: 145-148Download
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The recently described Arunachal macaque, Macaca munzala, has to date been reported only from western Arunachal Pradesh, Eastern Himalaya. Our surveys have recorded a total of 35 troops and 569 individuals, probably a conservative estimate, for the macaque population in the Tawang and West Kameng districts of the state. The species appears to be tolerant to anthropo- genic habitat change, but is vulnerable to hunting and retaliatory killing in response to crop damage. Data from one part of the area surveyed, however, indicate that the species can attain remarkably high population densities in the absence of hunting. Macaca munzala will need to be protected in human-modified landscapes, and the issues of crop damage and retaliatory persecution must be addressed urgently.
- Journal Article2006Living with large carnivores: predation on livestock by the snow leopard (Uncia uncia).Journal of Zoology (London), 268, 217-224.