Dholes in the Western Ghats

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Large carnivores across the world face several threats even as they continue to decline in numbers. Understanding where these species occur, how they use their habitats and what factors influence these patterns are important for their conservation. The Asiatic wild dog or dhole (Cuon alpinus) is a unique endangered predator. It is the only social, wild canid that almost exclusively inhabits forest areas in Asia. Historically treated as ‘vermin’, dholes were bounty-hunted across the India until they were protected under … Read More

Striped Hyena Persistence in India — Insights from Kumbhalgarh and Esrana in Rajasthan

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A threatened but poorly understood species, the Striped Hyena (Hyaena hyaena) is thought to occur in arid ecosystems across India. It is found in human-dominated landscapes in Rajasthan, a region with 4.3 percent of land area protected under nature reserves. This large carnivore predominantly scavenges on domestic and wild ungulate carcasses. At present, we lack robust estimates of hyena densities and understanding of factors that influence their persistence and distribution.

Authors Priya Singh, Arjun M. Gopalaswamy, and K. Read More

The Elusive Leopard Cats of India

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Small felids, like jungle cats, leopard cats, fishing cats and marbled cats (among others) constitute more than 60% of all cat species in the world. But most of these small cats remain understudied because they are generally secretive, elusive and difficult to observe and monitor. In this aspect, the leopard cat presents a fascinating case study.

Leopard cats are among the world’s most widely occurring small cat species. There have been substantial studies of their ecology in Southeast Asia. In … Read More

Gharial Population Estimation in the Chambal and Conservation Implications

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India’s Chambal River hosts the largest population of the critically endangered Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus). In the 1970s, the total population of the Gharial was estimated at less than 200, following which conservation programmes involving the creation of protected areas and rear-and-release programmes were established. But, despite the release of over 5000 gharials into various Indian rivers over the past few decades, only about 200 breeding adults reportedly still survive. These programmes were poorly monitored and their outcome never … Read More

Large Carnivores in Human Dominated Landscapes

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The conservation of large carnivores like wolves, bears, tigers and lions is always a challenging task in our modern and crowded world. Humans have modified and fragmented habitats and often experience a diversity of conflicts with large predatory neighbours. There is currently a major debate going on among conservationists about how to best go about achieving large carnivore conservation. Alternatives range from a focus on fencing carnivores into protected areas to allowing them to reoccupy shared landscapes where they must … Read More

Understanding the Distribution and Occurrence of India’s Smallest Bovid: The Chousingha

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Endemic to the Indian sub-continent, the four-horned antelope (FHA) or Chousingha is listed as Vulnerable (C2a (i)) in the IUCN Red list. In 2008, there were an estimated 10,000 adults in the wild in Nepal and India. Being a low-density species, FHA are particularly sensitive to changing habitat conditions and anthropogenic pressures. In India, the species is protected under Schedule-I of the Wildlife Protection Act (1972).

At present, there is little scientific information available on the four-horned antelope, and the … Read More

WII Report: Status of Great Indian Bustard and Associated Wildlife in the Thar Desert Landscape

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The Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and the Rajasthan Forest Department have recently conducted a joint assessment of Great Indian Bustard status in Thar. The enclosed report describes the survey protocol and provides information on distribution, abundance and habitat of GIB and key associated wildlife in this crucial conservation landscape. We hope to replicate such surveys in other bustard landscapes with the kind cooperation of State Forest Departments so as to help managers in prioritizing and implementing site-specific actions.

The … Read More

Counting Squirrels in Indian Forests

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Although the ecology of squirrels has been extensively studied, most past work is characterized by the failure to account for detection and heavy reliance on indices rather than directly measuring abundance. This has involved acoustic and visual surveys, sign surveys (tracks, middens and dreys) and capture-recapture sampling (trapping rates) methods are adopted to estimate squirrel abundance. Such field studies assume the detection probability of the species to be equal in all sites, leading to incorrect estimates of true abundance.

Authors … Read More

Counting Tigers Reliably — Combining Information From Multiple Sources

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Authors Arjun M. Gopalaswamy, K. Ullas Karanth, Andy Royle, Mohan Delampady, James D. Nichols and David W. Macdonald demonstrate innovative approaches that integrate information from photographic capture-recapture and genetic data to derive more robust estimates of tiger densities in Bandipur Tiger Reserve, India. These are the highlights of their study published in the journal Ecology in 2012.

In landscapes where wildlife occurs in low densities, gathering information from a single method often does not allow accurate estimation of population densities … Read More

Developing Simple and Innovative Techniques to Monitor Elephants

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Authors V. R. Goswami, M.V. Lauretta, M. D. Madhusudan and K. U. Karanth have developed an automated process to identify individual adult male elephants effectively. These are the highlights of their study published in the journal, Animal Conservation in 2011.

There are an estimated 40,000 wild Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) spread across 13 countries in Asia (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka in South Asia and Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam). According … Read More

Small-clawed Otters: Where are they Found?

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The smallest of the world’s otters, the Asian small-clawed otter (Aonyx cinerea) is found widely across Asia from south-western India, through southern China, the Malay Peninsula, to Sumatra, Java, Borneo and the Palawan Island in the Philippines.

Being amphibious in nature, this animal is found in and around a range of habitats including rivers, hill streams, estuaries, marshes, wetlands, and mangroves. As apex predators, the otters function as key links in cycling nutrients between aquatic and terrestrial systems, … Read More

Camera-trapping Mammals in Pakke Tiger Reserve

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Photographs by Forest Department staff of Pakke Tiger Reserve.

Intensive camera trapping by state forest departments (as per Phase-IV of NTCA) to monitor tiger populations, is now being done on a yearly basis in tiger reserves across India. This was done for the first time in Pakke Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh. Here are some stunning images of fabulous mammals captured during this season’s monitoring exercise. This effort has been mainly undertaken by the forest department staff of Pakke … Read More

Q: Are the number of tigers present in India accurate? I mean other than the national parks and the sanctuaries, are there no tigers left elsewhere? For example the forests of Goa, Uttar Kannada (not the Anshi-Dandeli Reserve), places like Karwar and the whole belt upto Mangalore?

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Answer from: Dr. Ullas Karanth, Director for Science-Asia, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS):

The overall tiger numbers being reported by the Government, based on the Wildlife Institute of India’s surveys once in four years, are generated from a weak methodology and hence not very robust. The complicated, ‘double-sampling’ based regression model they use is a somewhat flawed and obsolete approach. Further, the quality of their estimates of tiger densities from individual sites that feed into this model vary. There are … Read More

India to Establish a National Database of Camera-trapped Tigers

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This piece originally appeared in the journal Oryx: Volume 47- April 2013.

Following the adoption of refined protocols for intensive annual monitoring of source populations of tiger (see Oryx, 46(4), 480), India’s National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is now following through by establishing a country-wide database of wild tigers captured in cameratrap surveys conducted by multiple research and governmental institutions at increasing intensity across the country. The objective of this project is to assign Unique Tiger Identification (UTID) numbers to … Read More

Manual Review — ‘Monitoring Elephant Populations and Assessing Threats’ (edited by Simon Hedges)

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Monitoring Elephants the right way: A Synopsis of the Manual titled ‘Monitoring Elephant Populations and Assessing Threats’.

Elephants are social, group living mammals revered by people across diverse cultures in the world. Once widely distributed across a range of ecological conditions, currently distribution and abundance of elephants have both dwindled drastically throughout its range due to habitat loss, fragmentation and poaching. India holds the largest population of Asian elephants surviving today.

In spite of its conservation significance, elephant populations across … Read More

Field Survey of large mammals (transect surveys) and training program on their population monitoring methods — Call for Volunteers by WCS – India

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Field Survey of large mammals and training program on their population monitoring methods 

Wildlife Conservation Society-India Program and its partner Centre for Wildlife Studies are conducting field training camps for monitoring large mammal populations for the field season 2013. These field workshops will be held at several reserves in Karnataka including Dandeli-Anshi, BRT, Bhadra, Bandipura and Nagarahole. Some of the methods taught will include:

  1. Estimation of large herbivore populations
  2. Relative abundance estimation of large carnivores using scat encounter rates
  3. Demo
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Innovative Sign Surveys and Modeling for Tropical Forest Ungulate Densities

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Habitat destruction, hunting and socio-economic pressures are leading to low densities of large ungulates in tropical forests. With traditional population assessment methods proving to be unreliable, the need for innovative applications that tackle issues of imperfect detections becomes paramount.

A. M. Gopalaswamy, K. U. Karanth, N. S. Kumar and D. W. Macdonald estimate forest ungulate densities using abundance models of occupancy. These are the highlights of their study published in the journal Animal Conservation in 2012.

  • A field survey of
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Chilika – A Shade Less Pink?

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In the winter of 2011-2012, I had the unique opportunity and privilege of being in Lake Chilika, Odisha, for a total of 40 days. While there were many resident and migrant birds to admire, Greater and Lesser flamingos, which used to be regular and abundant visitors to Nalabana Island inside Lake Chilika, were noticeably few. Population studies (done between 2001 and 2005 by scientists from the Bombay Natural History Society) show that around 5000 Greater Flamingos used to arrive until … Read More

BPL – 123, Tale of a Leopard

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This one belies the field guides and the natural history books, which usually dismiss the leopard’s diet as “scrounging on smaller prey.” In actual fact, leopards are powerful predators that routinely kill fairly hefty prey such as spotted deer and sambar fawns.

Even so, Vinay S Kumar’s photograph of a leopard dragging a gaur calf is not a sight you see everyday. The picture, which was taken in Karnataka’s Bandipur Tiger Reserve, shows a male leopard dragging his massive kill … Read More

A Wildlife Survey along the Khanduli River, outside Ranthambore

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The river Khanduli emanates from the Mansarovar dam, situated south of Ranthambore National Park and heads along the Eastern boundary of Sawai Mansingh Sanctuary. It gradually drifts Southeast and merges with the mighty Chambal, in the National Chambal Sanctuary. The Khanduli flows through a mixed-use landscape comprising of forest, agricultural fields and plantations. However, like the Chambal, the Khanduli river floods heavily during the monsoon and as a consequence the most dominant features along its course are its ravines. These … Read More

Annual Tiger Census to Start in Arunachal Pradesh this Month

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The annual tiger census in Arunachal Pradesh will be conducted by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) this month. The tiger numbers in Namdapha and Pakke, the two tiger reserves in Arunachal, would be determined using scientific methods and reputed NGOs are to be involved in the process. The NTCA will provide all the equipment necessary as well as the training required for the field staff. Camera traps are to be placed at a distance of 1 km for 35 … Read More

Why the ‘Pugmark Census’ Used to Monitor Tiger Populations Failed

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In 2003, some highly respected conservationists got together to write a paper for an international journal, in which they laid bare the loopholes in the pugmark method of counting tigers in India. Shortly thereafter, in an extraordinary sequence of events, newer and more advanced methods were used to assess the tiger population, which resulted in the shocking denouement that there were only about 1411 tigers in India. Read on to discover how the scientists rated the old ‘pugmark census’.

The … Read More