- Journal Article2006An assessment of spider sampling methods in tropical rainforest fragments of the Anamalai hills, Western Ghats, India.Zoos' Print Journal 21: 2483-2488.
- Journal Article2006Mammals of the high altitudes of Western Arunachal Pradesh, Eastern Himalaya: an assessment of threats and conservation needs.Oryx 40(1): 1-7.
The high altitudes of Arunachal Pradesh, India, located in the Eastern Himalaya biodiversity hotspot, remain zoologically unexplored and unpro- tected. We report results of recent mammal surveys in the high altitude habitats of western Arunachal Pradesh. A total of 35 mammal species (including 12 carnivores, 10 ungulates and 5 primates) were recorded, of which 13 are categorized as Endangered or Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. One species of primate, the Arunachal macaque Macaca munzala, is new to science and the Chinese goral Nemorhaedus caudatus is a new addition to the ungulate fauna of the Indian subconti- nent. We documented peoples’ dependence on natural resources for grazing and extraction of timber and medicinal plants. The region’s mammals are threatened by widespread hunting. The snow leopard Uncia uncia and dhole Cuon alpinus are also persecuted in retaliation for livestock depredation. The tiger Panthera tigris, earlier reported from the lower valleys, is now apparently extinct there, and range reductions over the last two decades are reported for bharal Pseudois nayaur and musk deer Moschus sp.. Based on mammal species richness, extent of high altitude habitat, and levels of anthropo- genic disturbance, we identified a potential site for the creation of Arunachal’s first high altitude wildlife reserve (815 km2). Community-based efforts that provide incentives for conservation-friendly practices could work in this area, and conservation awareness programmes are required, not just amongst the local communities and schools but for politicians, bureaucrats and the army.
- Journal Article2006Perceived conflicts between pastoralism and conservation of the Kiang Equus kiang in the Ladakh Trans- HimalayaEnvironmental Management, 38, 934-941
- Journal Article2006Plant Community Structure in Tropical Rain Forest Fragments of the Western Ghats, IndiaBiotropica 38: 143–160. doi: 10.1111/j.1744-7429.2006.00118.x
Changes in tree, liana, and understory plant diversity and community composition in five tropical rain forest fragments varying in area (18–2600 ha) and disturbance levels were studied on the Valparai plateau, Western Ghats. Systematic sampling using small quadrats (totaling 4 ha for trees and lianas, 0.16 ha for understory plants) enumerated 312 species in 103 families: 1968 trees (144 species), 2250 lianas (60 species), and 6123 understory plants (108 species). Tree species density, stem density, and basal area were higher in the three larger (> 100 ha) rain forest fragments but were negatively correlated with disturbance scores rather than area per se. Liana species density, stem density, and basal area were higher in moderately disturbed and lower in heavily disturbed fragments than in the three larger fragments. Understory species density was highest in the highly disturbed 18-ha fragment, due to weedy invasive species occurring with rain forest plants. Nonmetric multidimensional scaling and Mantel tests revealed significant and similar patterns of floristic variation suggesting similar effects of disturbance on community compositional change for the three life-forms. The five fragments encompassed substantial plant diversity in the regional landscape, harbored at least 70 endemic species (3.21% of the endemic flora of the Western Ghats–Sri Lanka biodiversity hotspot), and supported many endemic and threatened animals. The study indicates the significant conservation value of rain forest fragments in the Western Ghats, signals the need to protect them from further disturbances, and provides useful benchmarks for restoration and monitoring efforts.
- Journal Article2006Decline of the Tibetan gazelle in Ladakh, IndiaOryx, 40, 229-232.
- Journal Article2006Distribution and Conservation Status of the Arunachal Macaque, Macaca munzala, in Western Arunachal Pradesh, Northeastern IndiaPrimate Conservation Vol 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.
- 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 Article2006Effects of habitat structure and adjacent habitats on birds in tropical rainforest fragments and shaded plantations in the Western Ghats.Biodiversity and Conservation 15: 1577-1607.Download
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As large nature reserves occupy only a fraction of the earth’s land surface, conservation biologists are critically examining the role of private lands, habitat fragments, and plantations for conservation. This study in a biodiversity hotspot and endemic bird area, the Western Ghats mountains of India, examined the effects of habitat structure, floristics, and adjacent habitats on bird communities in shade-coffee and cardamom plantations and tropical rainforest fragments. Habitat and birds were sampled in 13 sites: six fragments (three relatively isolated and three with canopy connectivity with adjoining shade-coffee plantations and forests), six plantations differing in canopy tree species composition (five coffee and one cardamom), and one undisturbed primary rainforest control site in the Anamalai hills. Around 3300 detections of 6000 individual birds belonging to 106 species were obtained. The coffee plantations were poorer than rainforest in rainforest bird species, particularly endemic species, but the rustic cardamom plantation with diverse, native rainforest shade trees, had bird species richness and abundance comparable to primary rainforest. Plantations and fragments that adjoined habitats providing greater tree canopy connectivity supported more rainforest and fewer open-forest bird species and individuals than sites that lacked such connectivity. These effects were mediated by strong positive effects of vegetation structure, particularly woody plant variables, cane, and bamboo, on bird community structure. Bird community composition was however positively correlated only to floristic (tree species) composition of sites. The maintenance or restoration of habitat structure and (shade) tree species composition in shade-coffee and cardamom plantations and rainforest fragments can aid in rainforest bird conservation in the regional landscape.
- Journal Article2005Of rights and wrongs: wildlife conservation and the tribal billEconomic and Political Weekly 40: 4893-4895Download
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While the Wildlife Act was always meant to recognise and settle the rights of forest dwellers, in practice, it has been used largely as a blunt instrument to bludgeon them with. It is entirely possible that the Tribal Bill could tomorrow become a similar blunt instrument with which to bludgeon wildlife.
- Journal Article2005Record of the Chinese goral Nemorhaedus caudatus in Arunachal PradeshJournal of the Bombay Natural History Society 102: 225-227
- Journal Article2005Discovery of the Tibetan macaque Macaca thibetana in Arunachal Pradesh, IndiaCurrent Science 88(9): 1387-1388
- Journal Article2005Benthic recovery four years after an El Niño-induced coral mass mortality in the Lakshadweep atollsCurrent Science. 89(4): 694-699Download
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The reefs of the Lakshadweep suffered a mass mortality of coral in 1998, in the wake of an El Niño event of unprecedented severity. In 2002, we conducted a broadscale benthic survey of six atolls in this group to check if there were geographic trends in recovery patterns across the archipelago. Four years after the mass mortality, live coral cover was relatively low on most atolls, and thin algal turfs dominated the benthos. Clear benthic differences were apparent between eastern and western aspects of reefs, pointing to the importance of local hydrodynamic conditions in determining recovery rates. Where recovery was the most apparent, it was dominated by fast-growing and bleaching-resistant coral genera. Despite the apparent lack of recovery at many sites, the reef system did not show signs of having suffered a ‘phase shift’ to a macroalgal state. High herbivorous fish abundance was likely responsible in controlling macrophyte levels, and may be crucial for further benthic recovery in these reefs.
- Journal Article2005The global village: linkages between international coffee markets and grazing by livestock in a south Indian wildlife reserveConservation Biology 19: 411-420Download
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India’s heritage of natural habitats and wild species is under growing threat from its biomass- dependent rural peoples and its consumeristic urban economy. As the mainstay of its wildlife conserva- tion effort, then, India’s wildlife reserves continue to face a range of extractive uses. The Indian conserva- tion/development discourse has, however, drawn a distinction between traditional subsistence use and modern commercial use of natural resources in wildlife reserves. It has also been suggested that subsistence use must be accommodated within Indian wildlife reserves because it caters exclusively to local consumption for livelihood, whereas commercial use warrants greater restriction because it furthers profit-based goals of distant interests. How valid is such a clear distinction between subsistence use and commercial use? I address this question using the village of Hangala on the boundary of Bandipur National Park in south India as a case study. Hangala’s livestock were reared primarily for their inputs of dung and draft power into local agriculture, and customarily grazed in the forests of Bandipur. This practice qualified as subsistence use because all goods and services obtained from livestock grazing in Bandipur catered exclusively to village-level consumption. In the last two decades, major upheavals in the global coffee markets dramatically boosted profit margins of coffee growers in the hill districts abutting Bandipur. The profits enabled coffee growers to afford expansions of their resource catchment for dung, an important farm manure in short supply in the coffee districts. When this demand reached Hangala, it resulted in large-scale export of dung, which transformed it from locally produced and locally consumed manure for village agriculture to a high-value organic fertilizer for commercial export to coffee plantations. Following the dung export, livestock numbers in the region increased, aggravating graz- ing pressures on the forests. This case study thus challenges politically correct notions that subsistence use is distinguishable from and preferable to commercial use in the context of protected-area management in India.
- Journal Article2005Ecology proposes, behaviour disposes: Ecological variability in social organization and male behavioural strategies among wild bonnet macaquesCurrent Science, 89: 1166-1179Download
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The structure and evolution of primate societies are generally shaped by ecological and social forces of natural selection. The habitat and feeding ecology of primate populations, in particular, largely determine the size of the existing social groups and the pattern of interactions between individuals within and across such groups. The bonnet macaque (Macaca radiata), an Old World monkey endemic to peninsular India, usually lives in seasonal tropical deciduous forests and occurs in typically large multimale multifemale associations. This species, however, appears to have evolved, in re- cent years, a fairly high proportion of small, but rea- sonably stable, unimale troops within one particular population in the Bandipur–Mudumalai wildlife sanc- tuaries of southern India. Demographic analyses indi- cate that, as compared to multimale troops, unimale groups are relatively depleted in subadult and juvenile males, exhibit a unique female-biased birth sex ratio and display extensive female dispersal, all of which may have arisen in response to reproductive monopo- lization by the solitary resident male. Several ecological factors, including food provisioning, may have led to the evolution of this social organization, unique for a seasonally breeding cercopithecine primate. Provisioning of primate groups also leads to a significant increase in intra-troop competition among individuals for the newly available resources. Do such individuals, however, exhibit altered behavioural strategies to alleviate social tension? Changing patterns of social interactions between adult males were also analysed for one particular troop of bonnet macaques in the Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary under two ecological situations – as they foraged on their natural diet and when they gathered provisioned food from tourists visiting the sanctuary. Although feeding competition increased markedly as these individuals alternated between natural foraging and competing for provisioned food, individual macaques were able to adopt appropriate social strategies under such rapidly changing eco- logical regimes. These studies demonstrate the behavioural and social plasticity of a primate species and the value of demographic studies of multiple groups and populations in different ecological environments.
- Journal Article2005Macaca munzala: A New Species from Western Arunachal Pradesh, Northeastern IndiaInternational Journal of Primatology 26(4): xxx-xxxDownload
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Macaca, comprising 20 well-characterized species, represents the largest and one of the most ecologically and socially diverse of all the nonhuman primate genera. We report the discovery of a macaque that is new to science from the high altitudes of western Arunachal Pradesh, a biodiversity-rich state in northeastern India. We propose the scientific name Macaca munzala and the vernacular name Arunachal macaque for the species. It shares morphological characteristics independently with the Assamese macaque (Macaca assamensis) and with the Tibetan macaque M. thibetana; like them, it appears to belong to the sinica species-group of the genus. However, the species is distinctive in relative tail length, which is intermediate between those of Tibetan and Western Assamese macaques, the subspecies with which it is sympatric. It is also unique in its altitudinal distribution, occurring largely at altitudes between 2000 and 3500 m. We provide a morphological characterization of the species, report preliminary data on its field biology and discuss possible taxonomic identity in relation to the other closely-related species of Macaca.
- Journal Article2005Not in their genes: Phenotypic flexibility, behavioural traditions and cultural evolution in wild bonnet macaquesJournal of Bioscience 30: 51-64
- Journal Article2005The Arunachal macaque Macaca munzala: a new primate species from western Arunachal Pradesh, north-eastern IndiaInternational Journal of Primatology 26 (4): 977-989.
- Journal Article2004Recovery of wild large herbivores following livestock decline in a tropical Indian wildlife reserveJournal of Applied Ecology 41: 858-869Download
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1. Resource competition is an important process governing the impact of livestock on native wild mammalian herbivores, an issue acknowledged to be of global conservation con- cern. Resource competition occurs between species when their resources (habitat and diet) overlap and are limiting. Yet the evidence that livestock compete with wild herbivores has remained weak because resource limitation is often difficult to demonstrate in the field.
2. This 2-year field study at Bandipur National Park, India, examined livestock-mediated resource limitation among five wild herbivore species: wild pig Sus scrofa, chital Axis axis, sambar Cervus unicolor, gaur Bos gaurus and Asian elephant Elephas maximus, by comparing their distribution and densities in adjoining livestock-grazed and livestock- free areas before, and after, a 49% decline in livestock density.
3. During 2001, mean densities of wild grazers, gaur (0·11 ha−1), chital (1·51 ha−1) and elephant (0·61 ha−1), were, respectively, 132, 11 and six times higher in the livestock-free area than in the adjacent livestock-grazed area. Densities of gaur, chital and elephant showed a sharp declining relationship with increasing livestock density, whereas no clear pattern was discernible with wild pig, a non-ruminant generalist, and the sambar, a forest browser. Preferred plant biomass also fell sharply with increasing livestock density.
4. Following the decline in livestock density in the livestock-grazed area in 2002, the densities of gaur, chital and elephant increased by a factor of 57, five and two in the same area, respectively, whereas no changes were seen in the densities of wild pig and sambar or in the preferred plant biomass. Except for a decline in elephant density, the livestock-free area did not show changes in wild herbivore densities.
5. Given the considerable overlap in habitat and dietary preference/requirements between livestock and wild herbivores in the study area, it is suggested that the recovery of gaur, chital and elephant densities following the livestock decline represents their release from livestock-mediated resource limitation.
6. These results indicate that resource competition may be intense between wild herbivores and grazing livestock, and if left unchecked could trigger declines of wild herbivores, particularly grazing ruminants and bulk feeders. These results also suggest that, where possible, interventions to reduce livestock grazing may rapidly benefit wild herbivores.
- Journal Article2004Competition between domestic livestock and wild bharal Pseudois nayaur in the Indian Trans-Himalaya.Journal of Applied Ecology, 41, 344-354.