Yet in four relatively small reserves in India’s wildlife-rich Western Ghats region, WCS researchers have found that they are co-existing, despite competing for much of the same prey, including sambar deer, chital, and pigs.
Using dozens of non-invasive camera traps for sampling entire populations, rather than track a handful of individuals, the research team recorded some 2,500 images of the three predators in action.
A new WCS study in India shows that three carnivores – tigers, leopards, and dholes (Asian wild dog) – seemingly in direct competition with one other, are living side by side with surprisingly little conflict.
Overall, the authors say that these carnivores have developed smart adaptations to coexist, even while they exploit the same prey base. However, these mechanisms vary depending on density of prey resources and possibly other habitat features.
Both tigers and dholes are classified as Endangered by IUCN; leopards are considered Vulnerable.
Understanding these separate yet overlapping species’ needs is critical to managing predators and prey in small reserves, which is increasingly the scenario of the future. The authors say that by managing populations of flagship predators, like tigers, carefully overall biodiversity can also be conserved.
The study titled “Spatio-temporal interactions facilitate large carnivore sympatry across a resource gradient” authored by Dr. Ullas Karanth, Mr. Arjun Srivathsa, Dr. Divya Vasudev, Ms. Mahi Puri, Dr. Ravishankar Parameshwaran and Dr. Samba Kumar, appeared in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences in February 2017.
This research was supported by the Department of Biotechnology and Department of Science and Technology, Government of India; The Forest Department and Department of Science and Technology, Government of Karnataka; and the Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg Foundation.
Contacts and sources:
WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society)