Oral Presentation- Symposium 12th International Mammalogical Congress

Mesocarnivores in human-modified habitats: A movement ecology approach to understanding adaptations for survival. (#151)

Abi T Vanak 1 , Anjan Katna 1 , Abhijeet Kulkarni 1 , Maria Thaker 2
  1. ATREE, Bangalore, Karnataka, India
  2. Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, Karnataka, India

In the increasingly human-dominated landscapes of India, the survival and long-term persistence of mammalian carnivores is a key conservation challenge. This is especially the case for species that survive in the semi-arid savanna biomes of central India. Much of the conservation research focus in India lies in the study of large herbivores and carnivores, yet smaller mammalian species are key components of ecosystems. Some small carnivores exist in human-modified landscapes, often venturing close to settlements and other infrastructure. However, we still lack an understanding of the behavioural strategies that permit effective commensalism and ecological conditions that permit coexistence in fragmented human-modified landscapes. We used a movement ecology approach to understand how multiple species of mesocarnivores survive in heavily human-modified landscapes. We fitted GPS collars to Indian foxes (n=15), golden jackals (n=7) and jungle cats (n=8), with fixes every 15-60 minutes. Our results show that species such as the Indian fox are heavily dependent on remnant native vegetation for daytime resting, using agricultural fields and fallows for foraging, but without a fixed route preference. On the other hand, jackals show a strong habitat preference for irrigated cultivation and a strong "spoke and node" pattern of foraging. Jungle cats are the most generalist, using native vegetation, irrigated agriculture as well as human settlements for foraging. For all three species however, daytime resting locations are in either natural or cultivated dense vegetation patches. Our results suggest that these species can survive in such environments provided there are relatively undisturbed daytime resting refugia.