Oct 5, 2015
Dehradun: Wildlife Institute of India is set to begin a new research project on the ‘meta-population dynamics’ of tigers, with particular focus the terai arc landscape, extending through Uttarakhand, UP and Bihar. Scientists are somewhat surprised to see that the general notions about tigers – that one male roams an area that he usually shares with two or three females, for instance – are being turned on its head in these parts, where there are more males.
The study is being funded by the Maharashtra NGO Wildlife Conservation Trust and Panthera Wild Cat Programme, US.
The terai arc is home to about 22% of the Indian wild tiger population. This new study will combine GIS mapping and genetic methods to understand connectivity status, gene flow and social dynamics in different tiger populations in this area.
The ecology of tigers, population and prey estimates and disturbance patterns are fairly well studied in some of the national parks and protected reserves in the terai arc. There is already considerable ecological data available for this region, making it ideal for genetic studies that will make for deeper understanding of population dynamics.
Samrat Mondol of WII, principal investigator of this study, told TOI, “The terai arc was selected as it has known corridors through which tigers are moving or capable of moving. This kind of movement creates a source-sink dynamics, where source populations (from areas where tigers are known to prowl) provide new tiger individuals to sink populations (areas where tigers establish territories). In the sink sites, they might breed with females and facilitate the gene exchange. Movement of tigers is essential for their genetic exchange and good connectivity through corridors is critical to maintain a viable tiger meta-population for long-term survival.”
Mondal said the study would provide useful information on the source-sink dynamics, quantify the rate and direction of gene flow and social dynamics in different tiger populations across terai. Such a study would aid in making informed decisions to protect this landscape, he said.
The study would aid in understanding these important corridors and thus boost work that aims at the long-term tiger population viability in this entire landscape. He said within each population, understanding social dynamics of tigers would aid in bringing out critical information on tiger behaviour that can be used in their management.
Bivash Pandav, WII scientist who is also part of the project, said shockingly new things are still being revealed about the social traits of the much-studied tiger. “Till now, it has been widely believed that a tiger rules over his territory with two-three females. But presence of two-three tigers were detected in the Corbett landscape, in the territory of one tiger, in the recent study conducted by researcher Shikha (Bisht), which is quite interesting. One needs to dig deeper.”
Another WII scientist pointed out that it has been seen the other males sneak into the main tiger’s territory and mate with females there, and then withdraw soon afterwards. The main tiger treats the cubs produced through such mating as his own offspring.
As posted in Timesofindia.indiatimes.com