Suvankar Biswas, Shrewshree Kumar, Meghna Bandhopadhyay
Jul 21, 2022
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.