Large carnivores strongly shape ecological interactions within their respective ecosystems, but experience significant conflicts with human across their range due to their specific ecological resource requirements. The tiger (Panthera tigris) typifies the challenges faced by the large carnivore communities globally. India retains majority of the global tiger population with significant numbers outside protected areas (PAs) that are involved in conflicts from livestock predation and human/tiger death. To understand the prey selection patterns and spatio-temporal patterns of livestock predation-related conflict issues we investigated tiger food habits across the Indian part of the Terai-Arc Landscape (TAL), a globally-important tiger conservation landscape in India. We used 510 genetically-confirmed tiger faeces collected across the landscape and ascertained 10 wild and livestock as major prey species. Large-bodied species (sambar, swamp deer, nilgai, chital, wild pig and livestock) comprised ~94% of tiger diet, with sambar, chital and livestock were the major prey species. Habitat-specific (Shivalik-Bhabar and Terai) analyses show significantly different pattern of prey selections determined by abundance and prey body weight. Results also suggest that PA and non-PAs of Terai habitat are more prone to livestock depredation-related conflicts, and careful management interventions and community involvements are required to reduce such threats. We suggest long-term plans including population estimation of tigers and prey outside PAs, reducing grazing pressures and cattle enumeration, detailed investigation of tiger deaths etc. to ensure future tiger sustainability across this habitat.
Background The extant members of the Asian rhinos have experienced severe population and range declines since Pleistocene through a combination of natural and anthropogenic factors. The one-horned rhino is the only Asian species recovered from such conditions but most of the extant populations are reaching carrying capacity. India currently harbours ~ 83% of the global wild one-horned rhino populations distributed across seven protected areas. Recent assessments recommend reintroduction-based conservation approaches for the species, and implementation of such efforts would greatly benefit from detailed genetic assessments and evolutionary history of these populations. Using mitochondrial data, we investigated the phylogeography, divergence and demographic history of one-horned rhinos across its Indian range. Results We report the first complete mitogenome from all the extant Indian wild one-horned rhino populations (n = 16 individuals). Further, we identified all polymorphic sites and assessed rhino phylogeography (2531 bp mtDNA, n = 111 individuals) across India. Results showed 30 haplotypes distributed as three distinct genetic clades (Fst value 0.68–1) corresponding to the states of Assam (n = 28 haplotypes), West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh (both monomorphic). The reintroduced population of Uttar Pradesh showed maternal signatures of Chitwan National Park, Nepal. Mitochondrial phylogenomics suggests one-horned rhino diverged from its recent common ancestors ~ 950 Kya and different populations (Assam, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh/Nepal) coalesce at ~ 190–50 Kya, corroborating with the paleobiogeography history of the Indian subcontinent. Further, the demography analyses indicated historical decline in female effective population size ~ 300–200 Kya followed by increasing trends during ~ 110–60 Kya. Conclusion The phylogeography and phylogenomic outcomes suggest recognition of three ‘Evolutionary Significant Units (ESUs)’ in Indian rhino. With ongoing genetic isolation of the current populations, future management efforts should focus on identifying genetically variable founder animals and consider periodic supplementation events while planning future rhino reintroduction programs in India. Such well-informed, multidisciplinary approach will be the only way to ensure evolutionary, ecological and demographic stability of the species across its range.
The extant members of the Eurasian rhino species have experienced severe population and range declines through a combination of natural and anthropogenic factors since the Pleistocene. The one-horned rhino is the only Asian species recovered from such strong population decline but most of their fragmented populations in India and Nepal are reaching carrying capacity. Implementation of any future reintroduction-based conservation efforts would greatly benefit from currently unavailable detailed genetic assessments and the evolutionary history of these populations. We sequenced wild one-horned rhino mitogenomes from all the extant populations (n=16 individuals) for the first time, identified the polymorphic sites and assessed genetic variation (2531bp mtDNA, n=111 individuals) across India. Results showed 30 unique rhino haplotypes distributed as three distinct genetic clades (Fst value 0.68-1) corresponding to the states of Assam (n=28 haplotypes), West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh (both monomorphic). Phylogenetic analyses suggest earlier coalescence of Assam (~0.5 Mya) followed by parallel divergence of West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh/Nepal (~0.06-0.05Mya), supported by the paleobiogeographic history of the Indian subcontinent. Combined together, we propose recognising three Evolutionary Significant Units (ESUs) of the Indian rhino. As recent assessments suggest further genetic isolations of the Indian rhinos at local scales, future management efforts should focus on identifying genetically variable founder animals and consider periodic supplementation events while planning future rhino reintroduction programs in India. Such well-informed, multidisciplinary approach is the only way to ensure evolutionary, ecological and demographic stability of the species across its range.
Large carnivores strongly shape ecological interactions within their respective ecosystems, but experience significant conflicts with humans across their range due to their specific ecological resource requirements. The Tiger (Panthera tigris) typifies the challenges faced by large carnivore species globally. India retains the majority of the global Tiger population with a substantial number occurring outside protected areas where they are prone to conflict through livestock predation and injury or death to people and Tigers. Tiger food habits was investigated across the Indian part of the Terai-Arc Landscape (TAL), a globally important Tiger conservation landscape, to understand Tiger prey selection patterns and hotspots of livestock predation-related conflict. 510 genetically confirmed Tiger feces were collected across the landscape and 10 wild ungulates and livestock as prey species were identified. Large-bodied species (Sambar, Swamp Deer, Nilgai, Chital, Wild Pig, and livestock) comprised ~94% of the diet, with Sambar, Chital, and livestock having the highest relative proportions. Habitat-specific (Shivalik-Bhabar and Terai) analyses indicate that prey selection is driven by prey abundance and body weight but not determined by protection status (protected areas vs non-protected areas). Results also suggest that PAs and non-PAs in the Terai region were more prone to livestock predation-related conflict. Careful management interventions with community involvement should be utilized to reduce such threats. In this study, we suggest long-term conservation plans including prey abundance estimation outside PAs, reduction of grazing pressures, and detailed records of Tiger mortalities with causal investigations to ensure future conflict-free Tiger persistence across TAL.
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