Category : Press Releases

1 month, 1 week ago Comments Off on Livestock sustains leopard populations in the tea gardens of West Bengal, study finds
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BENGALURU, 6th April 2018: A new study on leopards that inhabit the tea-garden and forest mosaic landscape of West Bengal finds that they are highly adaptable to living in human-use areas, and that their prey includes high numbers of livestock like cattle and goats. The study is a part of WCS India’s long-term research on the socio ecology of human-wildlife interactions. The persistence of large carnivores in human-use areas can lead to conservation and management problems globally. Lack of ecological knowledge of such carnivores in human-use landscapes impedes efficient and science-based management. This study focused on understanding the diet of leopards specifically in the Indian state of West Bengal.

The team estimated the diet usage, prey availability and diet selection of leopards in a tea-plantation dominated landscape. The collaborative study between Wildlife Conservation Society–India Program, National Centre for Biological Sciences, Foundation of Ecological Research Advocacy and Learning and West Bengal Forest Department, was conducted in a tea-garden and forest mosaic in northern West Bengal state covering an area ~400 sq km with high human density.

The team collected more than 120 putative leopard scats (faeces) from field and after careful examination, confirmed 70 of the samples to belong to leopards. These samples were analyzed for remains of prey items based on the hairs found in the faeces. The available prey for the leopard was estimated using field surveys (distance sampling) and statistical models. Used prey and available prey were compared to understand the selectivity in diet of the leopards.

The study found high usage of domestic prey such as cattle and goats by leopards and among wild prey, rhesus macaques were preyed upon more that their proportional availability.

Aritra Kshettry, the lead author of the study says, “The domestic prey available to the leopard is six times higher than wild prey in the study area. This implies that leopards are feeding on whatever is more available to them and not necessarily choosing domestic prey over wild prey” The anthropogenic food resource allows carnivores like leopards to persist in tea-estates and non-forested areas in the landscape. However, losses to people due to
livestock kills needs to be reconciled immediately to prevent negative attitudes of local communities towards the leopards. The study highlights the adaptability of leopards and their patterns of prey resource use in tea-gardens that lie outside the Protected Area network.

The study titled “Diet Selection of Leopards (Panthera pardus) in a Human-Use Landscape in North-Eastern India” authored by Mr. Aritra Kshettry, Mr. Srinivas Vaidyanathan and Dr. Vidya Athreya, appeared in the journal Tropical Conservation Science on March 21 st 2018. It may be accessed here: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1940082918764635

The research was supported by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, The Rufford Foundation, Idea Wild and logistical support was provided by the West Bengal Forest Department.

1 month, 3 weeks ago Comments Off on WCS India Program congratulates Professor K VijayRaghavan, Principal Scientific Advisor, GoI
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BENGALURU, 29 March 2018: On behalf of Wildlife Conservation Society–India Program, I am pleased to send across my heartiest congratulations to Professor K VijayRaghavan for being appointed as Principal Scientific Advisor (PSA) to the Government of India. The office of the PSA is a scientific body that the government relies on for advice on matters relating to science. It also acts as the interface between scientific institutions and the government.

One of India’s finest biologists, Professor K VijayRaghavan was formerly the director of the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) and was appointed Secretary of Department of Biotechnology in 2013, a position from which he retired last month. I am grateful for his enthusiastic support in the initiation of the two-year master’s degree program in Wildlife Biology and Conservation at NCBS, which was established in 2004 due to a partnership between WCS – India Program and NCBS.
His continued encouragement and backing for research in wildlife science and ecology, both as the Director of NCBS as well as the Secretary of Department of Biotechnology, has contributed immensely to the success of this program in training a sound cadre of professionals that work for wildlife conservation. Since its initiation, the program has matriculated 88 master’s students who have published 65 peer-reviewed scientific papers from their thesis and 150 papers after graduation. Fifteen students have completed their PhDs and 24 are currently enrolled in PhD programs.

I would like to congratulate Professor VijayRaghavan once again most warmly on his
appointment and wish him success in his future endeavours.

Best wishes,
Prakriti Srivastava
Country Director
Wildlife Conservation Society – India Program

2 months ago Comments Off on WCS scientists Dr Ullas Karanth and Dr Krithi Karanth jointly awarded by Woodland Park Zoo, USA.
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BENGALURU, 23 March 2018: On behalf of Wildlife Conservation Society, India Program, we are pleased to share that Dr K Ullas Karanth and Dr Krithi Karanth have been jointly awarded the Conservation Leadership Award by the Woodland Park Zoo at the Thrive Leadership Awards ceremony for their dedication to the study and conservation of tigers and other mammals. The ceremony was held at Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle, USA, on 27 February 2018.

Dr Ullas Karanth is the Director for Science, Asia at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and is considered one of the world’s foremost authorities on tigers. He has conducted extensive research on their ecology, and pioneered the use of remote cameras for studying prey-predator relations and population density of big cats. Dr Krithi Karanth is an Associate Conservation Scientist with WCS, and her work encompasses a broad range of issues examining human dimensions of wildlife conservation. Her research provides insights into the patterns of mammal extinctions, the impacts of wildlife tourism in reserves, and the consequences of voluntary resettlement and land use change. Together, they have published more than 200 scientific articles and authored several books, with their work featured in world media including National Geographic, NPR, Scientific American, BBC, CNN, New York Times, Time Magazine and Animal Planet.

The Thrive Leadership Awards honoured individuals and a local corporation who have demonstrated their commitment to protecting wildlife and the environment around them and advancing Woodland Park Zoo’s mission of conservation. “We honoured some incredible leaders in wildlife conservation—individuals whose dedication to preserving the human-animal connection on this planet spans decades, continents and even conservation methods,” said Woodland Park Zoo’s President and CEO, Alejandro Grajal.

Ms Prakriti Srivastava, Country Director, WCS India Program, said “I am delighted to learn that Dr Ullas Karanth and Dr Krithi Karanth have been honoured with the Conservation Leadership Award by Woodland Park Zoo. Dr Ullas Karanth pioneered the first ever scientific study of tiger and prey populations and has introduced new perspectives to wildlife research in India. Dr Krithi Karanth’s work has provided valuable insights into human dimensions of wildlife conservation through her work with communities that live in and around wildlife habitats. I, on behalf of the entire WCS India Program fraternity, would like to congratulate them on being conferred this prestigious award.”

2 months, 3 weeks ago Comments Off on Tragic Demise of Mr. S Manikandan, IFS – Condolences
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Bengaluru, 3rd March, 2018: I, on behalf of Wildlife Conservation Society-India Program, condole the tragic demise of Mr. S Manikandan, Conservator of Forests, Nagarahole National Park, Karnataka.  Mr. S. Manikandan passed away in a shocking incident inside Nagarahole National Park when he was confronting and killed by a wild elephant while performing his duties in the D B Kuppe range.

 

Our deepest condolences are with the bereaved family and friends of Mr. Manikandan.  Forest department personnel often have to brave  difficult hardships while on duty, especially when they are posted in such sensitive areas. Sometimes, this may result in them suffering severe injuries due to unexpected interactions with wild animals, or in rare cases, result in the loss of human life and Mr. Manikandan’s demise is one such sad incident.  We are anguished to have lost a devoted forest officer.

 

We stand by the family and friends of Mr. Manikandan during these difficult times.

 

Prakriti Srivastava
Country Director – WCS India Program

3 months ago Comments Off on Birds and Beans: Study Shows Which Type of Coffee Plantations are Best for Bird Diversity
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Bengaluru, 19th February, 2018: It’s an age-old debate for coffee lovers. Which is better: Arabica beans with their sweeter, softer taste, or the bold, deep flavor of Robusta beans? A new study by Wildlife Conservation Society, Princeton University, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison appearing in the journal Scientific Reports has taken the question to unlikely coffee aficionados: birds.

The researchers, led by WCS Associate Conservation Scientist Dr. Krithi Karanth, surveyed for bird diversity in coffee agroforests in India’s Western Ghats region. Previous research has demonstrated that shade-grown coffee (typically Arabica) can harbor substantial levels of biodiversity. But coffee production is globally shifting toward Robusta, which uses a more intensive full-sun agricultural system, which may pose deleterious impacts for forest wildlife.

What the researchers found was surprising: although Arabica avian assemblages were more species rich, Robusta nevertheless offered substantial biodiversity benefits, and supported higher densities of several sensitive avian populations such as frugivores. In addition, farmers use less pesticides in the more disease-resistant Robusta farmlands.

The authors found a total of 79 forest dependent species living in the coffee plantations they surveyed, including three IUCN Red-Listed species: Alexandrine parakeet (Psittacula eupatria), grey-headed bulbul (Pycnonotus priocephalus) and the Nilgiri wood pigeon (Columba elphinstonii). Plantations can harbor a diversity of mammals, amphibians and tree species, too.

The study has important implications as coffee production is an increasingly important driver of landscape transformation, and shifts between different coffee bean species are a major dimension of agroforestry trends. The authors say that coffee certification efforts should prioritize maintaining native canopy shade trees to ensure that coffee landscapes can continue providing biodiversity benefits.

Said Dr. Karanth “Coffee farms already play a complementary role to protected areas in a country like India where less than four percent of land is formally protected. Therefore, building partnerships with largely private individual and corporate land holders will provide much needed safe-passage and additional habitats for birds and other species.” Dr. Karanth co-founded a coffee company, Wild Kaapi, which sources wildlife friendly Indian coffee.

Indian robusta has relatively high “cup scores” (i.e. flavour ratings) by coffee experts, is disease-resistant, and commands a price premium.

Said lead author Charlotte Chang, who analysed the data while a graduate student at Princeton University and is now a postdoctoral researcher at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (University of Tennessee, Knoxville): “An encouraging result of the study is that coffee production in the Western Ghats, a global biodiversity hotspot, can be a win-win for birds and farmers.”

Funding for this project was provided by US NSF Grant Number 1265223, Oracle, the US NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, and Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide with USAID program.

3 months, 1 week ago Comments Off on Transition of WCS India Program Country Director from Dr Ullas Karanth to Ms Prakriti Srivastava, IFS
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Bengaluru, 14th February, 2018: On behalf of Wildlife Conservation Society – India Program, we are pleased to announce the transition of the WCS-India Program’s Country Director from Dr. Ullas Karanth to Ms. Prakriti Srivastava, Indian Forest Service.

The Wildlife Conservation Society’s India Program was founded by Dr K Ullas Karanth. For nearly 30 years, WCS – India Program mission has combined cutting-edge research on tigers and other wildlife, with national capacity building and effective site-based conservation through constructive collaborations with governmental and non-governmental partners. Uncompromisingly committed to wildlife conservation, WCS – India Program inspires and nurtures positive attitude towards nature in people through its scientific and conservation endeavors.

We are delighted to introduce Ms. Prakriti Srivastava as the next Director of WCS India. Ms. Srivastava has been with the Indian Forest Service for the past 27 years, while serving on the Kerala cadre as well as various capacities in the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests. During this time Ms. Srivastava was renowned both for her unflinching support of wildlife and forest conservation, and for her ability, often at great personal cost, to catalyze a wide variety of tangible and profound conservation successes. Ms. Srivastava, along with her very committed team and with support from Forest Department and the Government, has many achievements including: catalyzing innumerable tough law enforcement actions against illegal encroachers, wildlife traffickers, timber smugglers and illicit timber factories in some of Kerala's most important landscapes for wildlife; working with key government colleagues to create four new national parks and to improve the protection status of many other forests; initiating in collaboration with local communities a highly successful Olive-Ridley Turtle conservation program; framing the Government of India’s highly pro-conservation policies for CITES, CMS and other Wildlife Conservation policies for the country including those for the National Board of Wildlife. We are excited to bring Ms. Srivastava’s skills and experience to lead WCS India.

After nearly 30 years of leading WCS-India, Dr. Karanth will be stepping down from the Country Director position, enabling him to focus on what got him into conservation to begin with, the science of wildlife. During his nearly 30 years leading WCS-India Dr. Karanth has had many achievements including: co-authoring scores of seminal scientific papers that hugely advanced the field of tiger and other wildlife population ecology and estimations; helping catalyze the government policy of voluntary resettlement in India that has led to dramatic reductions in threats to wildlife in protected areas in India as well as the improved livelihood opportunities for thousands of families; catalyzing the creation of a Master’s Degree Program in Wildlife Conservation and Biology whose 85+ alumni are now stalwarts of conservation and conservation science across India. Perhaps Dr. Karanth’s finest achievement was finding and supporting talented conservationists and conservation scientists who are now the key staff and partners of WCS India Program and who today are transforming conservation in much of India. We are greatly pleased that Dr. Karanth will remain with WCS for a while as he focuses on writing up scientific studies based on the years of data collected on wildlife in India and on representing WCS’s tiger conservation efforts globally. We are grateful to Dr. Karanth for his years leading WCS-India, and excited to work with him in his new capacity.

Please join us in welcoming Dr. Karanth and Ms. Srivastava into their new roles.

3 months, 3 weeks ago Comments Off on Statement by Country Director of WCS India regarding FIR wrongly filed against Karnataka Forest Officers
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BENGALURU, 30 January 2018: On behalf of the Wildlife Conservation Society – India, I would like to issue a statement regarding the recent FIR filed against three forest officers of the Karnataka Forest Department, Kodagu district. We understand that the FIR has been registered against the three forest officers in a case where a person was killed by a wild elephant due to a serious conflict situation.  We wish to express our deepest sympathies to the bereaved family.

We are aware of the difficulties that forest officers face while dealing with such conflict situations. In many cases, officers and forest staff put their lives at risk while trying to get an escalating situation under control.  We are dismayed to note that in this case, an FIR has been filed against the jurisdictional forest officers, holding them responsible for the unfortunate demise of the victim. Elephants are wide-ranging species and hence require large spaces of forest land to move and survive.  Unfortunately, in Kodagu, elephant habitats are highly fragmented resulting in frequent conflict situations that sometimes lead to human mortality. In this context, it can be extremely demoralising for the Forest Department staff if legal action is taken against them while they are doing their duty. It is deeply demotivating to see FIRs being filed against forest officers holding them responsible for ill-fated situations that are not entirely under their control.

We wish to express solidarity with the forest officers against whom the FIR has been erroneously filed. We strongly urge the Government of Karnataka to immediately withdraw the said FIR and drop all further proceedings against the officers. Further, we look up to the Karnataka Government to ensure that the morale of forest officers is kept high so that they may discharge their duties efficiently.  In future, such situations can be avoided only if the conflict is scientifically monitored and effectively mitigated. We urge the Government of Karnataka to take steps to address the same.

PRAKRITI SRIVASTAVA
Country Director
Wildlife Conservation Society-India Program

    

 

5 months ago Comments Off on Counting Tigers, the Right Way: Book on Advanced Methods Published
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MEDIA CONTACT:

Dr. Ullas Karanth

Email: <ukaranth@gmail.com>

 

  • New Book Provides Proven Methods for Monitoring Tiger and Prey Populations
  • Tigers now occupy less than 7% of their historic range

 

© Ullas Karanth/WCS

Click on snapshot to view video

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BENGALURU, 21 December 2017: A new book co-edited by tiger biologist Dr. Ullas Karanth of (WCS) Wildlife Conservation Society and Dr. James Nichols, an Emeritus statistical ecologist from the United States Geological Survey (USGS), provides an authoritative text on monitoring tigers, their prey, and many other similarly endangered species.

The volume is co-authored by 32 authors, from several leading research and conservation organizations, representing a range of technical expertise from tiger biology to mathematical statistics and modeling. The text provides detailed answers to critical questions in population assessment, such as why, what and how to monitor animal populations, and offers hope that such rigorous audits will greatly help in recovering wild tigers.

 

“Methods for Monitoring Tiger and Prey Populations,” is published by Springer. It is a culmination of Karanth and Nichols’ decades of research partnership. In it, they have collaborated with 30 other scientists to produce in-depth treaties on advanced scientific methods to accurately track tiger and prey population dynamics. Additional methods demonstrate how multiple connected populations and their distributions can be monitored.

 

 

“This work is a distillation of 40 years of science dedicated to the single aim of more effectively conserving wild tigers,” said WCS Director of Global Conservation Dr. John Robinson. “As such, it is a foundational text for anyone committed to recovering the world’s largest cat.”

 

The earth is currently thought to be home to less than 4,000 wild tigers – 96,000 fewer than suggested to have roamed the planet at the beginning of the 20th century. Their survival depends upon the ability of scientists to properly monitor effectiveness of conservation efforts and accurately answer questions such as: Are tiger numbers increasing or decreasing? How are tigers distributed in the wild? What is the status of tiger habitat?

 

Because tigers are popular icons, the last 50 years have seen vast resources invested by tiger range countries and the global conservation community to save them. However, the status of the big cat remains precarious and its population status is uncertain across much of its range.

 

Ullas Karanth, a conservation biologist and one of the world’s leading authorities on tigers, believes that reliable audits of tiger conservation are essential, and cannot be arrived at by simply throwing money at the situation. He and other co-authors argue that many current, expensive tiger monitoring programs lack the necessary rigor to generate reliable results in spite of massive investments made.

 

As a world-renowned pioneer in developing and evaluating the efficacy of tiger counting methods, Ullas Karanth is in a unique position to make that call. Among his many accomplishments are his critiques that led to the abandonment by the Indian Government of “pugmark tiger census” and its replacement with camera trap sampling developed by him and Nichols that can estimate tiger numbers from photos using their unique stripe patterns. Their collaboration, involving innovative capture-recapture statistical models, has been widely adopted by researchers to estimate population parameters not only for wild tigers but many naturally marked animals.

 

“Over the years, we have successfully adapted our monitoring approaches with the introduction of new tools and techniques, but studying wild populations of tigers and prey species remains challenging,” said Robert Dorazio, a statistician with the USGS Wetland and Aquatic Research Center and one of the book’s co-authors.

 

“We really wanted to make sure the statistical methods presented in this book were state-of-the-art and were capable of extracting as much useful information as possible from the available data” added Prof. Mohan Delampady of the Indian Statistical Institute, another coauthor.

 

Contributing to the text are scientists with expertise in a range of necessary disciplines: biology and ecology of tigers; prey and habitats; advanced statistical theory and practice; computation and programming; practical field-sampling methods that employ technologies as varied as camera traps, genetic analyses and geographic information systems.

 

Without dependable answers, conservationists and scientists are at a disadvantage in finding and implementing conservation solutions that will safeguard tigers. Thorough monitoring of surviving wild tiger populations continues to be essential for both understanding and recovering wild tigers. The new book details how to do it right.

 

The book discusses cutting edge methodologies of sampling, modeling, estimation and adaptive management of animal populations using cutting-edge tools such as camera-traps, genetic identification and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) using a modern statistical approach.

 

“I believe our coauthors in this volume are among the best in business as far as monitoring tigers and other threatened species and as a result this volume represents the state of the art on this topic,” said Ullas Karanth. “Conservationists should not be satisfied with substandard methods, given how much money and passion they are investing on recovering wild tigers across species range. It is time to change: the tiger needs the best care to recover”.


Wildlife Conservation Society India Program.

WCS India Program, based in Bengaluru, has combined cutting-edge research on tigers and other wildlife, with national capacity building and, effective site-based conservation through constructive collaborations with governmental and non-governmental partners. WCS India Program is committed to saving wildlife and wild lands, nurturing and inspiring positive attitudes towards nature in people through its scientific and conservation endeavors.

 

Visit: wcsindia.org Follow us on Twitter: @WCSIndia | Facebook: @wcs.ind | Instagram: @wcsindia

5 months, 2 weeks ago Comments Off on WCS conservationists and partners win Sanctuary Wildlife Awards
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BENGALURU, 9 December 2017 –  Wildlife conservationists and partners associated with Bengaluru-based Wildlife Conservation Society-India have won various awards at the Sanctuary Wildlife Awards held in Mumbai yesterday, 8 December 2017. The awardees are Mr. Jayachandran S, Mr. Shashank Dalvi, Mr. Nikit Surve and Ms. Vaishali Rawat. The Sanctuary Wildlife Awards were constituted in 2000 by Sanctuary, to shine a spotlight on the unsung heroes who are defending wildernesses in the Indian subcontinent.

 

Mr. Jayachandran S was felicitated with the ‘Wildlife Service Award’ by Sanctuary Nature Foundation.

Mr. Jayachandran S, Wildlife Service Award : Ooty-based conservation activist and long-term conservation partner of Wildlife Conservation Society-India, Mr. Jayachandran S, has won the prestigious ‘Wildlife Service Award’ presented by the Sanctuary Nature Foundation on the 18th edition of the Sanctuary Wildlife Awards.

Over the past 30 years, Mr. Jayachandran S has been a key conservation leader in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve and surrounding areas. In 1990, he started the Tamil Nadu Green Movement (TNGM) which has been actively assisting the forest department in law enforcement and advocacy. In 2010, based on Mr. Jayachandran’s intervention in his capacity as the Honorary Secretary of the Nilgiris Wildlife and Environment Association, the Chennai High Court issued a landmark judgement that evicted illegal tourism infrastructure at Sigur Elephant Corridor. Mr. Jayachandran S has been instrumental in stopping several road and tourism infrastructures in ecologically important forest areas including Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserves in Tamil Nadu, BiligiriRanganatha Temple Tiger Reserve in Karnataka. He has persistently worked with the Tamil Nadu Government and Forest Departments to consolidate key wildlife habitats in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. Mr. Jayachandran is also assisting residents of Mudumalai Tiger Reserve in availing fair relocation packages from the government.

 

Mr. Jayachandran S has assisted Tamil Nadu and Kerala Forest Departments in busting poaching rackets, including in the arrest of Kerala-based poachers linked to an international illegal ivory trader in 2015. Often facing great risk unflinchingly, he has assisted the forest departments in the southern States in apprehending hardened poachers and has made several seizures. Thanks to the initiatives of Mr. Jayachandran, many ex-poachers of Theni District are now transformed and are currently engaged in conservation activities in the Nilgiris.

 

On Mr. Jayachandran being conferred the award, Dr. K Ullas Karanth, Director for Science Asia, Wildlife Conservation Society said, “Mr. Jayachandran is a true conservation warrior. He has helped agencies catch poachers and at the same time convinced poachers to give up trade. He has fought court cases to prevent tourist resorts and industrial projects intruding into sensitive habitats of tigers and elephants. In retaliation, he has been harassed by commercial lobbies and complicit, corrupt officials. But he has fought on. This award is a long overdue recognition of his life-time work for wildlife and wild land conservation”.

 

 

Mr. Shashank Dalvi was felicitated with the ‘Wildlife Service Award’ by Sanctuary Nature Foundation.

Mr. Shashank Dalvi, Wildlife Service Award : For using his vast knowledge, commitment to science, and love for gruelling expeditions in pursuit of his long-term goal which is to pioneer a nation-wide conservation programme for birds outside Protected Areas.

 

 

Mr. Nikit Surve was felicitated with the ‘Young Naturalist Award’ by the Sanctuary Nature Foundation.

Mr. Nikit Surve, Young Naturalist Award : For working with dedication and passion on a complex and burning conservation issue – that of sharing space with our wild cat neighbours.

 

 

Ms. Vaishali Rawat was felicitated with the ‘Young Naturalist Award’ by Sanctuary Nature Foundation.

Ms. Vaishali Rawat, Young Naturalist Award : For striving to popularise conservation and create a groundswell of public support for the natural landscapes on which we all depend.

 


Wildlife Conservation Society India Program.

WCS India Program, based in Bengaluru, has combined cutting-edge research on tigers and other wildlife, with national capacity building and, effective site-based conservation through constructive collaborations with governmental and non-governmental partners. WCS India Program is committed to saving wildlife and wild lands, nurturing and inspiring positive attitudes towards nature in people through its scientific and conservation endeavors.

 

Visit: wcsindia.org Follow us on Twitter: @WCSIndia | Facebook: @wcs.ind | Instagram: @wcsindia

Scientists find sign-surveys can reliably assess distribution of wildlife
7 months ago Comments Off on Scientists find sign-surveys can reliably assess distribution of wildlife
Posted in: News, Press Releases
  • Scat and track surveys of wildlife is reliable and cost-effective
  • Scientists studied sloth bears in Bhadra Tiger Reserve in Karnataka
  • First rigorous comparison of two different methods of monitoring distribution of wildlife (camera trap survey and sign survey)
  • Scientists say both sources of data produced nearly identical results

BENGALURU, 26 October 2017 – A new study from the Wildlife Conservation Society-India Program, the Centre for Wildlife Studies, and the University of Florida-Gainesville, shows that cost-effective “sign surveys” can be used to reliably monitor animal distributions in the wild.

 

The authors believe this finding has important implications for conservation as sign surveys offer a cheaper data source for occupancy models compared to direct detection methods.

 

Occupancy models are used to assess where species occur and why, and the status of rare and threatened wildlife to guide conservation interventions. To estimate detection probability, these models can use field data from direct sightings of animals or from camera trap photo “captures”. Such direct surveys, however, involve greater cost and effort. Wildlife scientists therefore often opt to employ surveys of animal signs such as scat or tracks which are more abundant and easier to find.

 

The study, which is based on data from a long term ecological study of tigers led by Wildlife Conservation Society scientist Dr. Ullas Karanth, provides the first rigorous comparison of two different methods (sign surveys and camera trap survey) to estimate proportion of habitat occupied by sloth bears in a 754 km2 area around Bhadra Tiger Reserve in Karnataka, India.

 

“The bears, which are solitary animals endemic to southern Asia, were chosen as a study species because they offer clear advantages in ensuring no false positive detections,” said Arjun Srivathsa, lead author of the paper. “Photo-captures of sloth bears from camera-trap surveys and indirect signs of the species are unmistakable.”

 

Occupancy estimated from sign surveys of fresh scat and tracks made by sloth bears along forest-trails were compared with camera trap captures of bears. Both sources of data produced nearly identical results. About 57% of the area was found to be occupied by sloth bears and this habitat choice was shown to be governed by forest cover and type and terrain ruggedness.

 

“This study demonstrates the importance of using rigorous statistical methods in surveys of rare and elusive species to optimize the quality of results as well as efficiently use substantial investments being made in such surveys now,” said Karanth, who co-authored the study.

 

“Substituting space for time: Empirical evaluation of spatial replications as a surrogate for temporal replication in occupancy modelling” appears in the current edition of the Journal of Applied Ecology.

 

Co-authors include: Arjun Srivastha of the Wildlife Conservation Society-India Program (WCS-India), The Centre for Wildlife Studies in Bengaluru, India (CWS), The School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Florida, Gainesville (SNRE),and The Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida, Gainesville (DWEC); Mahi Puri of WCS-India, CWS, and DWEC; N. Samba Kumar of WCS-India, and CWS; Devcharan Jathanna of WCS-India; and K. Ullas Karanth of WCS-India, CWS, WCS, and the National Center for Biological Sciences, Bengaluru, India.

 

WCS’s collaboration on this initiative was made possible by the Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg Foundation.

 


 

Wildlife Conservation Society India Program.

WCS India Program, based in Bengaluru, has combined cutting-edge research on tigers and other wildlife, with national capacity building and, effective site-based conservation through constructive collaborations with governmental and non-governmental partners. WCS India Program is committed to saving wildlife and wild lands, nurturing and inspiring positive attitudes towards nature in people through its scientific and conservation endeavors.

 

Visit: wcsindia.org Follow: @WCSIndia, @wcs.ind