- Journal Article2017Assessing changes in distribution of the Endangered snow leopard Panthera uncia and its wild prey over 2 decades in the Indian Himalaya through interviewbased occupancy surveysdoi:10.1017/S0030605317001107Download
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Understanding species distributions, patterns of change and threats can form the basis for assessing the conservation status of elusive species that are difficult to survey. The snow leopard Panthera uncia is the top predator of the Central and South Asian mountains. Knowledge of the distribution and status of this elusive felid and its wild prey is limited. Using recall-based key-informant interviews we estimated site use by snow leopards and their primary wild prey, blue sheep Pseudois nayaur and Asiatic ibex Capra sibirica, across two time periods (past: –; recent: –) in the state of Himachal Pradesh, India. We also conducted a threat assessment for the recent period. Probability of site use was similar across the two time periods for snow leopards, blue sheep and ibex, whereas for wild prey (blue sheep and ibex combined) overall there was an % contraction. Although our surveys were conducted in areas within the presumed distribution range of the snow leopard, we found snow leopards were using only % of the area (, km). Blue sheep and ibex had distinct distribution ranges. Snow leopards and their wild prey were not restricted to protected areas, which encompassed only % of their distribution within the study area. Migratory livestock grazing was pervasive across ibex distribution range and was the most widespread and serious conservation threat. Depredation by free-ranging dogs, and illegal hunting and wildlife trade were the other severe threats. Our results underscore the importance of community-based, landscape- scale conservation approaches and caution against reliance on geophysical and opinion-based distribution maps that have been used to estimate national and global snow leopard ranges.
- Journal Article2017Impact of wild prey availability on livestock predation by snow leopards.Royal Society Open Science, 4(6), 170026.Download
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An increasing proportion of the world's poor is rearing livestock today, and the global livestock population is growing. Livestock predation by large carnivores and their retaliatory killing is becoming an economic and conservation concern. A common recommendation for carnivore conservation and for reducing predation on livestock is to increase wild prey populations based on the assumption that the carnivores will consume this alternative food. Livestock predation, however, could either reduce or intensify with increases in wild prey depending on prey choice and trends in carnivore abundance. We show that the extent of livestock predation by the endangered snow leopard Panthera uncia intensifies with increases in the density of wild ungulate prey, and subsequently stabilizes. We found that snow leopard density, estimated at seven sites, was a positive linear function of the density of wild ungulates—the preferred prey—and showed no discernible relationship with livestock density. We also found that modelled livestock predation increased with livestock density. Our results suggest that snow leopard conservation would benefit from an increase in wild ungulates, but that would intensify the problem of livestock predation for pastoralists. The potential benefits of increased wild prey abundance in reducing livestock predation can be overwhelmed by a resultant increase in snow leopard populations. Snow leopard conservation efforts aimed at facilitating increases in wild prey must be accompanied by greater assistance for better livestock protection and offsetting the economic damage caused by carnivores.
- Journal Article2017Canine Conundrum: Domestic dogs as an invasive species and their impacts on wildlife in India.Animal Conservation. DOI 10.1111/acv.12389.
- Journal Article2017Commensal in conflict: Livestock depredation patterns by free-ranging domestic dogs in the Upper Spiti Landscape, Himachal PradeshAmbio 46(6): 655-666. DOI 10.1007/s13280-016-0858-6
- Journal Article2017Hunting or habitat? Drivers of waterbird abundance and community structure in agricultural wetlands of southern IndiaAmbio, 46(5): 613-620. 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 Article2017Conflict to coexistence: Human – leopard interactions in a plantation landscape in Anamalai Hills, IndiaConservation and Society 15(4): 474-482.Download
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When leopards are found in human-dominated landscapes, conflicts may arise due to attacks on people or livestock loss or when people retaliate following real and perceived threats. In the plantation landscape of the Valparai plateau, we studied incidents of injury and loss of life of people and livestock over time (15 – 25 y) and carried out questionnaire surveys in 29 plantation colonies and eight tribal villages to study correlates of livestock depredation, people's perception of leopards, and preferred management options for human – leopard interactions. Leopards were implicated in an average of 1.3 (± 0.4 SE) incidents/year (1990 – 2014) involving humans and 3.6 (± 0.8 SE) incidents/year (1999 – 2014) involving livestock, with no statistically significant increasing trend over time. Most incidents of injury or loss of life involved young children or unattended livestock, and occurred between afternoon and night. At the colony level, livestock depredation was positively related to the number of livestock, but decreased with the distance from protected area and number of residents. Half the respondents reported seeing a leopard in a neutral situation, under conditions that resulted in no harm. All tribal and 52% of estate respondents had neutral perceptions of leopards and most (81.9%, n = 161 respondents) indicated changing their own behaviour as a preferred option to manage negative interactions with leopards, rather than capture or removal of leopards. Perception was unrelated to livestock depredation, but tended to be more negative when human attacks had occurred in a colony. A combination of measures including safety precautions for adults and children at night, better livestock herding and cattle-sheds, and building on people's neutral perception and tolerance can mitigate negative interactions and support continued human – leopard coexistence.
- 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.
- 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.
- Journal Article2016Shifting agriculture supports more tropical forest birds than oil palm or teak plantations in Mizoram, northeast IndiaThe Condor: Ornithological Applications 18: 345–359.Download
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Please see link/PDF for English Abstract. Mizo translation below.
Mizoram, India hmarchhakah oil palm leh teak hmun aiin tlangram lo neih hi ramhnuai sava te tan a hnemhnanawm zawk
Ramngaw leh thlai chi hrang hrang chinna thlawhhma te thlai mal chin bingna atana chán zel hi khawvel pum a humhalhtu te ngaimawh a ni ta. India hmarchhakah pawh, tlang mi te thlawhhma chu, thlai mal (teak, oil palm)-in a lan chho mek bawk. Oil palm leh teak hmun te, chulram (kum 0 – 8 léng) leh lo (ringthar) te leh Dampa ngawpui, Mizoram, India-a mi te kan khaikhin a. Zirbing tura thlan chi nga te hi hmun sawmhnih-ah theuh thendarh a ni a, chumi chhunga thingkung awm te, sava chi hrang awm te, an bit dan leh an tam dan te zirchian a ni. Oil palm hmunah thingkung a tlem ber a, teak hmunin a dawt a, lo leh ngawah te a tam ber thung. Loa thingkung bit zawng (4.3/100m 2 ) hi oil palm hmun (0.5) aiin a sang a, ngawchhung (6.8 – 8.2) a sang fal hle, oil palm hmunah mau a awm lo a, chulah erawh mau a tam thung (25/50m 2 ). Sava chi 107 (ramhnuai-sava 94, dai-sava 13) chhinchiahah oil palm hmunah a tlem ber a (10), teak hmunin a dawt (38); Ngaw hmawr (58) leh chhungril (70) te chu ringthar (50) aiin a sang zawk. Loah leh ngawa ramhnuai sava tam dan a thuhmun a, oil palm hmun aiin 304%-in a sang a, teak hmun aiin 87%-in a sang bawk. Thlai mal chin-bingna aiin lo leh ngawah sava chi thuhmun a tam zawk. Chulramah thing leh mau a than chak avang te, mau hmunin ngai a awh leh hma avangin lo neih hi sava humhalh nan a tha zawk. Lo neih tihmasawn tur zawnga leilung enkawl dan duan chhuah hi a tul takzet a, vahchap sawngbawl dan tha zawk te, tualto thlai uar tur te leh thlaimal chin- bingna hmun hnaia luikam thing chi dang te humhalh tura inkaihhruai a tul hle.
Tawngkam hman bik: sava chi ho, ngawpui, thlawhhma, lo, Tectona grandis, Elaeis guineensis, thilnung tinreng tamna, leilung hmandan tihdanglam
- Journal Article2016The Relationship Between Religion and Attitudes Toward Large Carnivores in Northern India?Human Dimension of Wildlife, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10871209.2016.1220034Download
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Evidence suggests that religion is an important driver of peoples’ attitudes toward nature, but the link between religion and carnivore conservation is poorly understood. We examined peoples’ attitudes in Buddhist (n = 83) and Muslim communities (n = 111) toward snow leopards (Panthera uncia) and wolves (Canis lupus) in Ladakh, India. We found that the effect of religion on attitudes was statistically nonsignificant, and was tempered by gender, education, and aware- ness of wildlife laws. Even though religion by itself was not an indication of an individual’s attitude toward large carnivores, the extent to which he/she practiced it (i.e., religiosity) had a positive correlation with pro-carnivore attitudes in the case of Buddhist but not Muslim communities. Our findings indicate that it may be useful to integrate locally relevant religious philosophies into conservation practice. However, the emphasis of conservation messaging should vary, stressing environmental stewardship in the case of Islam, and human–wildlife interdependence in the case of Buddhism.
- Journal Article2016"Choice" and destiny: The substrate composition and mechanical stability of settlement structures can mediate coral recruit fate in post-bleached reefsCoral Reefs. 35: 211-222
Increasingly frequent and intense ocean warming events seriously test the buffer and recovery capacities of tropical coral reefs. Post-disturbance, available settlement structures on a reef (often dead coral skeletons) vary considerably in their mechanical stability and substrate composition, critically influencing coral recruit settlement choice and fate. In the wake of a coral mass mortality in the Lakshadweep archipelago, we examine (1) the relative availability of recruit settlement structures (from stable to unstable: reef platform, dead massive coral, consolidated rubble, dead corymbose coral, dead tabular coral, and unconsolidated rubble) in 12 recovering reefs across three atolls in the archipelago, (2) the substrate composition [crustose coralline algae (CCA), mixed turf, macroalgae] of these structural forms, and (3) whether the choice and fate of young coral are mediated by the substrate and stability of different structural forms. For this, we measured the abundance and distribution of recruit (<1cm), juvenile (1–5 cm), and young adult (5–10) corals of 24 common coral genera. Four years after the mass mortality, reefs differed considerably in composition of settlement structures. The structures themselves varied significantly in substrate cover with dead tables largely covered in CCA [60 ± 6.05 % (SE)] and dead corymbose coral dominated by mixed turf (61.83 ± 3.8 %). The youngest visible recruits (<1 cm) clearly preferred CCA-rich structures such as dead massives and tables. However, older size classes were rarely found on unstable structures (strongly ‘‘avoiding’’ tables, Ivlev’s electivity index, E = -0.5). Our results indicate that while substrate cover might mediate coral choice, the mechanical stability of settlement structures is critical in determining post-settlement coral survival. The composition and availability of settlement structures on a reef may serve as a characteristic signature of its recovery potential, aiding in assessments of reef resilience.
- Journal Article2016For traditional island communities in the Nicobar archipelago, complete no-go areas are the most effective form of marine managementFor traditional island communities, no-go areas are the most effective form of managementOcean & Coastal Management 133, 53-63 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2016.09.003Download
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For traditional island communities in the Nicobar archipelago, complete no-go areas are the most effective form of marine management
The ability of local communities to sustainably manage natural resource harvests in coral reefs ecosystem depends heavily on the strength of traditional institutions. Coastal communities have evolved a suite of restrictive practices to control marine offtake and there is considerable recent evidence of their effec- tiveness in protecting and enhancing resource stocks. However, traditionally imposed restrictions can vary considerably in their complexity and in their functional effectiveness. The indigenous communities of the Nicobar Islands are dependent on marine resources for sustenance, managing them with a range of traditionally imposed restrictions. These include limited entry to certain locations, closed seasons and areas, and restrictions on species, size-classes of fish and fishing methods. We tested the relative effectiveness of protection in areas managed under different traditional control regimes by comparing the abundance and biomass of targeted fish groups in managed and unmanaged areas. Our results indicate that reef sites with the strictest form of restriction e essentially no-go areas e had significantly higher abundance and biomass values of most functional groups of fishes compared with partially protected and control locations. In contrast, targeted food fish stocks did not differ from control locations in partially protected sites managed with even complex forms of traditional management. Ensuring that traditional harvest rules are complied is critical to the success of any management system, and our re- sults suggest that they can be most strictly enforced in traditional no-go areas. Our work highlights the importance of critically evaluating the factors influencing traditional management systems to strengthen their ability to protect these reefs from unsustainable overharvest.
- Journal Article2016Range extension of the endangered Salim Ali’s Fruit Bat Latidens salimalii (Chiroptera: Pteropodidae) in the Anamalai Hills, Tamil Nadu, India.Journal of Threatened Taxa 8: 9486-9490. http://dx.doi.org/10.11609/jott.2718.104.22.16886-9490
Available here: http://threatenedtaxa.org/index.php/JoTT/article/view/2796/3827
- Journal Article2016Factors affecting provisioning times of two stork species in lowland NepalWaterbirds, 39: 365-374. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1675/063.039.0406
The ecology of stork colonies in south Asia are very poorly understood. Factors affecting provisioning times by adults were evaluated at nests of two stork species, the Asian Openbill (Anastomus oscitans) and the Lesser Adjutant (Leptoptilos javanicus), in lowland Nepal where the landscape is dominated by multi-cropped agriculture fields. Analyses focused on understanding if provisioning times are influenced more due to colony-level variables, wetlands around colonies, or season. Using generalized additive mixed models and the information-theoretic approach, colony-level variables (brood size and chick age) showed non-trivial associations with provisioning times (substantially better than the null model). Univariate models with colony size and wetlands had poor support (worse than the null model). Season, which represented the changing cropping patterns, rainfall, and wetness on the landscape, was the most important variable for both species. The combination of season and wetlands was very important for provisioning Asian Openbills whose chicks fledged during the monsoon (July–October), but not for Lesser Adjutants whose chicks fledged in the drier winter months (November–February). Results strongly suggest that changing cropping patterns to a drier monsoonal crop, or reductions in wetland extents, will be detrimental to storks in Nepal.
- Journal Article2016Forage and security trade-offs by markhor Capra falconeri mothers.110 (8): 1559-1563.
- Journal Article2016Homeward bound: fish larvae use dispersal corridors when settling on coral reefsNatural History Notes: Frontiers in Ecology and the EnvironmentDownload
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- 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 Article2016Irrigation 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.