- Journal Article2014Acoustic identification of bats in the southern Western Ghats, IndiaActa Chiropterologica 16: 213–222Download
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Bats play crucial roles in ecosystems, are increasingly used as bio-indicators and are an important component of tropical diversity. Ecological studies and conservation-oriented monitoring of bats in the tropics benefit from published libraries of echolocation calls, which are not readily available for many tropical ecosystems. Here, we present the echolocation calls of 15 species from the Valparai plateau in the Anamalai Hills, southern Western Ghats of India: three rhinolophids (Rhinolophus beddomei, R. rouxii (indorouxii), R. lepidus), one hipposiderid (Hipposideros pomona), nine vespertilionids (Barbastella leucomelas darjelingensis, Hesperoptenus tickelli, Miniopterus fuliginosus, M. pusillus, Myotis horsfieldii, M. montivagus, Pipistrellus ceylonicus, Scotophilus heathii, S. kuhlii), one pteropodid (Rousettus leschenaultii) and one megadermatid (Megaderma spasma). Discriminant function analyses using leave-one-out cross validation classified bats producing calls with a strong constant frequency (CF) component with 100% success and bats producing frequency modulated (FM) calls with 90% success. For five species, we report their echolocation calls for the first time, and we present call frequencies for some species that differ from those published from other parts of the species’ ranges. This exemplifies the need for more local call libraries from tropical regions to be collected and published in order to record endemic species and accurately identify species whose calls vary biogeographically.
PDF also available here: http://dx.doi.org/10.3161/150811014X683408
- Journal Article2014A penny saved is a penny earned: lean season foraging strategy of an alpine ungulateAnimal Behaviour 92, 93-100
- Journal Article2014Genetic diversity and population structure of Lantana camara in India indicates multiple introductions and gene flow.Plant Biology. 16(3): 651-658.Download
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Lantana camara is a highly invasive plant, which has spread over 60 countries and island groups of Asia, Africa and Australia. In India, it was introduced in the early nineteenth century, since when it has expanded and gradually established itself in almost every available ecosystem. We investigated the genetic diversity and population structure of this plant in India in order to understand its introduction, subsequent range expansion and gene flow. A total of 179 individuals were sequenced at three chloroplast loci and 218 individuals were genotyped for six nuclear microsatellites. Both chloroplasts (nine haplotypes) and microsatellites (83 alleles) showed high genetic diversity. Besides, each type of marker confirmed the presence of private polymorphism. We uncovered low to medium population structure in both markers, and found a faint signal of isolation by distance with microsatellites. Bayesian clustering analyses revealed multiple divergent genetic clusters. Taken together, these findings (i.e. high genetic diversity with private alleles and multiple genetic clusters) suggest that Lantana was introduced multiple times and gradually underwent spatial expansion with recurrent gene flow.
- Journal Article2014Assessing leopard occurrence in the plantation landscape of Valparai, Anamalai HillsCurrent Science 107: 1381-1385.Download
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Available from this link: http://www.currentscience.ac.in/Volumes/107/09/1381.pdf
- Journal Article2014Occurrence of Small-toothed Palm Civet Arctogalidia trivirgata in Dampa Tiger Reserve, Mizoram, North-east IndiaSmall Carnivore Conservation 50: 47-49.Download
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Single Small-toothed Palm Civets Arctogalidia trivirgata were seen and photographed on two consecutive nights in March 2014 in Dampa Tiger Reserve, Mizoram, India. They visited a fruiting tree used also by Masked Palm Civet Paguma larvata and Common Palm Civet Paradoxurus hermaphroditus. The present note describes the observation, adding to the few recent records of A. trivirgata from North-east India. The sighting was close to the location of a 1995 sighting of Stripe-backed Weasel Mustela strigidorsa, another species rarely recorded in the region. We suggest further targeted spotlighting and camera-trap surveys for better documentation of the occurrence and distribution of small carnivores in Dampa.
- Journal Article2014Tracing the geographic origin of traded leopardbody parts in the Indian subcontinent withDNA-based assignment testsConservation Biology, 2014, DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12393Download
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Illicit trade in wildlife products is rapidly decimating many species across the globe. Such trade is often underestimated for wide-ranging species until it is too late for the survival of their remaining populations. Policing this trade could be vastly improved if one could reliably determine geographic origins of illegal wildlife products and identify areas where greater enforcement is needed. Using DNA-based assignment tests (i.e., samples are assigned to geographic locations), we addressed these factors for leopards (Panthera pardus) on the Indian subcontinent. We created geography-specific allele frequencies from a genetic reference database of 173 leopards across India to infer geographic origins of DNA samples from 40 seized leopard skins. Sensitivity analyses of samples of known geographic origins and assignments of seized skins demonstrated robust assignments for Indian leopards. We found that confiscated pelts seized in small numbers were not necessarily from local leopards. The geographic footprint of large seizures appeared to be bigger than the cumulative footprint of several smaller seizures, indicating widespread leopard poaching across the subcontinent. Our seized samples had male-biased sex ratios, especially the large seizures. From multiple seized sample assignments, we identified central India as a poaching hotspot for leopards. The techniques we applied can be used to identify origins of seized illegal wildlife products and trade routes at the subcontinent scale and beyond.
- Journal Article2014Positive interactions between Irrawaddy dolphins and artisanal fishers in the Chilika Lagoon of eastern India are driven by ecology, socio-economics and cultureAmbio
In human-dominated landscapes, interactions and perceptions towards wildlife are influenced by multi- dimensional drivers. Understanding these drivers could prove useful for wildlife conservation. We surveyed the attitudes and perceptions of fishers towards threatened Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris) at Chilika Lagoon India. To validate the drivers of fisher perceptions, we : (1) observed dolphin foraging behavior at stake nets, and (2) compared catch per unit effort (CPUE) and catch income of fishers from stake nets in the presence and absence of foraging dolphins. We found that fishers were mostly positive towards dolphins, believing that dolphins augmented their fish catch and using culture to express their perceptions. Foraging dolphins were observed spending half their time at stake nets and were associated with significantly higher catch income and CPUE of mullet (Liza sp.), a locally preferred food fish species. Wildlife conservation efforts should use the multidimensional drivers of human–wildlife interactions to involve local stakeholders in management.
- Journal Article2014The response of birds and mixed-species bird flocks to human-modified landscapes in Sri Lanka and southern IndiaForest Ecology and Management 329: 384–392Download
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While there is no substitute for undisturbed forest, secondary forests and agroforests are increasingly common in tropical areas and may be critical to conservation plans. We compared the diversity and abundance of birds and the characteristics of mixed-species bird flocks in forests inside protected reserves to ‘‘buffer’’ areas, consisting of degraded forests and non-native timber plantations at reserve boundaries, and to agricultural areas. We monitored a network of 57 transects placed over an altitudinal gradient (90–2180 masl) in Sri Lanka and southern India, collecting 398 complete flock observations and 35,686 observations of birds inside and outside of flocks over two years. Flocks were rarely found in agri- cultural areas. However, the density of flocks in buffer areas was similar to that in forests, although buffer flocks were smaller in average flock size and differed significantly in composition, as measured by the proportion of species that were classified, from the literature, as forest interior or open-landscape species. While flock composition was distinct between agricultural, buffer and forest areas, the differences in the composition of flocks was not as great as the differences between the overall communities in these different habitats. Considering buffer transects alone, pine plantations retained fewer forest interior species in flocks than did forests, and small areas of agriculture and abandoned agriculture attracted open-landscape species. Though clearly not equivalent to protected forests, degraded forests and agroforests in buffer areas still hold some conservation value, with forest species found particularly in mixed-species flocks in these human-modified habitats.
- Journal Article2014Our backyard wildlife: Challenges in coexisting with uneasy neighbours. [Guest Editorial]Current Science 106: 1463-1464.
Available here: http://www.currentscience.ac.in/Volumes/106/11/1463.pdf
- Journal Article2013Reversible immobilization of free-ranging snow leopards (Panthera uncia) using a combination of Medetomidine and Tiletamine-ZolazepamJournal of Wildlife Diseases DOI: 10.7589/2012-02-049
- 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 Article2013Complex ecological pathways underlie perceptions of conflict between green turtles and fishers in the Lakshadweep Islands.Biological Conservation 167: 25-34
Managing human–wildlife conflict is often complicated by apparent mismatches between community perceptions and measures of directly incurred losses. Fishers in Agatti Island (Lakshadweep, India) associate recent increases in green turtle (Chelonia mydas) populations with declining fish catches, resulting in targeted killing of turtles. We compared fisher perceptions in Agatti with a very similar atoll, Kadmat, with much lower turtle densities. Nearly 90% of Agatti fishers interviewed blamed turtles for declining catch compared with 20% in Kadmat and proposed two mechanisms for this decline: direct interference (e.g., turtles damaged gear) which we define as first order conflict, and indirect mechanisms (second order conflict): turtles overgrazed seagrasses, thereby reducing fish catch. We evaluated the magnitude of gear loss with interviews and tested proposed indirect mechanisms with a turtle density gradient, before–after comparisons (taking advantage of an increase in turtles in Kadmat and concurrent decrease in Agatti) and a natural herbivore exclosure. These complementary approaches supported fisher-pro- posed second-order mechanisms: at high densities, turtles heavily grazed seagrasses, significantly reduced canopy heights, lowered fish recruit abundance, food fish biomass and catch. Estimates of losses incurred in Agatti show that first-order conflict cost fishers USD 0.6 fisher-1 year1, while second-order pathways accounted for USD 887 fisher-1 year-1. Our results show that local perceptions are fueled by often-complex mechanisms that, though not always straightforward to measure, are very important in generating conflict. Reconciling the human–wildlife interface requires an adequate accounting of direct and indirect mechanisms to more completely reflect true losses communities bear for living with wildlife.
- Journal Article2013Influence of gaze and directness of approach on the escape responses of the Indian Rock Lizard, Psammophilus dorsalis (Gray, 1831).Journal of Biosciences. 38(5): 829–833.Download
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Animals often evaluate the degree of risk posed by a predator and respond accordingly. Since many predators orient their eyes towards prey while attacking, predator gaze and directness of approach could serve as conspicuous indicators of risk to prey. The ability to perceive these cues and discriminate between high and low predation risk should benefit prey species through both higher survival and decreased energy expenditure. We experimentally examined whether Indian rock lizards (Psammophilus dorsalis) can perceive these two indicators of predation risk by measuring the variation in their fleeing behaviour in response to type of gaze and approach by a human predator. Overall, we found that the gaze and approach of the predator influenced flight initiation distance, which also varied with attributes of the prey (i.e. size/sex and tail-raise behaviour). Flight initiation distance (FID) was 43% longer during direct approaches with direct gaze compared with tangential approaches with averted gaze. In further, exploratory, analyses, we found that FID was 23% shorter for adult male lizards than for female or young male (FYM) lizards. In addition, FYM lizards that showed a tail-raise display during approach had a 71% longer FID than those that did not. Our results suggest that multiple factors influence the decision to flee in animals. Further studies are needed to test the generality of these factors and to investigate the proximate mechanisms underlying flight decisions.
- Journal Article2013Large carnivores and low diversity of optimal prey: a comparison of the diets of snow leopards Panthera uncia and wolves Canis lupus in Sarychat-Ertash Reserve in KyrgyzstanOryx DOI:10.1017/S0030605313000306
- Journal Article2013Globalization of the Cashmere Market and the Decline of Large Mammals in Central AsiaConservation Biology 27: 679-689
- Journal Article2013Joint Indian initiative creates tiger corridorNature, 500, 29Download
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Short excerpt on the creation of 6,500 sq km of contiguous network of protected areas — the largest in the country.
- Journal Article2013Phenology, seed dispersal and regeneration patterns of Horsfieldia kingii, a rare wild nutmegTropical Conservation Science, 6 (5): 674-689.Download
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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 Article2013Can wetlands maintained for human use also help conserve biodiversity? Landscape–scale patterns of bird use of wetlands in an agricultural landscape in north IndiaBiological Conservation 168: 49-56. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2013.09.016
Wetlands in tropical agricultural landscapes are maintained largely by local institutions explicitly for human use, which is assumed to deter biodiversity. Conservation efforts have been biased towards protecting large wetlands that are assumed to be adequate to conserve the majority of species of focal taxa, usually birds. These assumptions remain untested, and landscape-scale conservation planning for wetlands is largely absent, as is a generalised understanding of wetland use by focal taxa. We designed a landscape-scale survey to understand patterns and processes determining beta diversity of birds using agricultural wetlands in south-western Uttar Pradesh, India where wetlands have experienced prolonged and intensive human use for several centuries. Observed bird species richness (99 species in 28 wetlands) is the highest known for any agricultural landscape in south Asia signifying that even intensive human use of wetlands does not necessarily deter their ability to retain biodiversity. Birds exhibited strong scale
dependent wetland use underscoring the need to conserve wetlands of varying sizes and at varying densities on the landscape. Beta diversity was due largely to species turnover (0.877) with minimal effect due to nestedness (0.055) suggesting that conserving a few large wetlands will not adequately meet goals of conserving the majority of wetland bird species. Prevailing assumptions regarding biodiversity conservation in tropical agricultural wetlands require being revised, and a landscape-scale approach that incorporates ecological realities is needed. Incorporating local institutions alongside formal protectionist methods offer a potential win–win situation to maximise conservation of biodiversity in tropical agricultural wetlands.
- Journal Article2013Globalization of the Cashmere Market and the Decline of Large Mammals in Central AsiaConservation Biology 27, no. 4 (2013): 679-689
- Journal Article2013Long-Term occupancy trends in a data-poor dugong population in the Andaman and Nicobar ArchipelagoPLoS One. 8(10): e76181
Prioritizing efforts for conserving rare and threatened species with limited past data and lacking population estimates is predicated on robust assessments of their occupancy rates. This is particularly challenging for elusive, long-lived and wide- ranging marine mammals. In this paper we estimate trends in long-term (over 50 years) occupancy, persistence and extinction of a vulnerable and data-poor dugong (Dugong dugon) population across multiple seagrass meadows in the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago (India). For this we use hierarchical Bayesian dynamic occupancy models accounting for false negatives (detection probability,1), persistence and extinction, to two datasets: a) fragmentary long-term occurrence records from multiple sources (1959–2004, n = 40 locations), and b) systematic detection/non-detection data from current surveys (2010–2012, n = 57). Dugong occupancy across the archipelago declined by 60% (from 0.45 to 0.18) over the last 20 years and present distribution was largely restricted to sheltered bays and channels with seagrass meadows dominated by Halophila and Halodule sp. Dugongs were not found in patchy meadows with low seagrass cover. In general, seagrass habitat availability was not limiting for dugong occupancy, suggesting that anthropogenic factors such as entanglement in gillnets and direct hunting may have led to local extinction of dugongs from locations where extensive seagrass meadows still thrive. Effective management of these remnant dugong populations will require a multi-pronged approach, involving 1) protection of areas where dugongs still persist, 2) monitoring of seagrass habitats that dugongs could recolonize, 3) reducing gillnet use in areas used by dugongs, and 4) engaging with indigenous/settler communities to reduce impacts of hunting.