Poster presentation 12th International Mammalogical Congress

An endemic in conflict: The nilgai antelope in a human dominated landscape of Western India (#633)

Dhawal Mehta 1
  1. Gujarat Forest Department, Biodiversity Conservation and Rural Livelihood Improvement Project, Field Learning Centre-Gir, Sasan Gir, Gujarat, India

The nilgai (Boselaphus tragocamelus) is Asia’s largest antelope and endemic to peninsular India. The species holds a notorious reputation of being a pest due to its crop depredating habits, thus posing a major challenge for its conservation and management. This study was undertaken to understand the ecology of nilgai in a human dominated Central Saurashtra landscape, Gujarat, India. The objectives of the study were to assess the status, distribution and population ecology of the nilgai, study the habitat ecology, feeding ecology, behavioural ecology of the nilgai, assess human-nilgai conflict status, and consequently devise mitigation measures. Nilgai occur throughout the landscape with an average density of 38.24 individuals km-2. Presence-absence data at different spatial scales was used in binomial regression models to understand the distribution of nilgai. Micro-histological analysis was carried out to study the food habits and the consumed plant species were analyzed for their micro-nutrient analysis. Nilgai were mixed feeders with seasonal variations in intake of different species. The crude protein level in a plant was found to be the most crucial factor governing diet selection. Focal animal sampling was carried out during three seasons, summer, winter and monsoon; circular statistics were computed for behavioural data analysis. Information on socio-economic status, agricultural practices, loss to animal depredation, preventive measures and their efficacy, attitudes towards species in conflict as well as mitigation suggestions, was collected from farmers using a structured open-ended questionnaire. The site specific mitigation measures were derived using ecological and socio-economic data of the landscape.