Oral Presentation- Symposium 12th International Mammalogical Congress

Response of leopards at varying densities of tigers in Rajaji National Park (RNP), Uttarakhand, India. (#125)

Harshvardhan Singh Rathore 1 , Bivash Pandav 1 , Bilal Habib 1
  1. Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India

Understanding intra-guild competition is imperative as we are losing our large carnivores. Rajaji National Park (RNP) in India is bisected by Ganges into two parts, Eastern RNP (ERNP) and Western RNP (WRNP). Rapid development along Ganges has disrupted the connectivity between both sectors. Management interventions and connectivity from adjoining populations resulted in recovery of tigers in ERNP whereas lacking connectivity led to their decline in WRNP. The leopard occupies both sectors. Thus RNP provides a natural test/control to study responses of leopards in landscapes with varying tiger density. Leopard and tiger densities were estimated from camera trap pictures, on a capture-mark-recapture framework using spatially explicit capture-recapture models. Spatial use of both carnivores was appraised using density surface models. Prey abundance was assessed using line transect based distance sampling using Distance 6.2. The research shows that tiger density varied significantly in ERNP & WRNP. In spite of varying tiger densities, the leopard densities remained high in both sectors and didn't differ significantly. The prey density also didn’t vary significantly between the two sectors. Leopards avoided high tiger intensity usage areas. RNP, located in the Terai Arc Landscape, is among seven “Priority One” landscapes for tiger conservation in the world. WRNP, facing the local extinction of tigers, has been recognized as a potential site for tiger reintroduction. Our study shows that leopards co-exist with tigers in ERNP. Thus, if the tiger is brought back in WRNP, it would be of great conservation and ecological concern to understand the leopard's response.