RESEARCH PAPER
Correlates of physiological stress and habitat factors in reintroduction-based recovery of tiger (Panthera tigris) populations
 
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1
Wildlife Institute of India
2
Laboratory for the Conservation of Endangered Species (LaCONES), Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology
3
National Tiger Conservation Authority
4
Global Tiger Forum
5
Sálim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History
Publish date: 2018-11-29
 
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ABSTRACT:
The ever-increasing human presence in tiger occupied landscapes mandates a better understanding of its effects on the species. The loss of tigers to conflict and poaching have been well established, while the indirect effects of human induced stress have not been widely discussed. Anthropogenic factors have driven tiger populations to extinction in Sariska and Panna Tiger Reserves in India. The reintroduction of tigers in these two reserves resulted in contrasting reproductive outcomes and population growth. In this paper, we demonstrate relationships between habitat factors and stress affecting reproduction of reintroduced animals in two contrasting wild tiger populations. The tiger population in Panna grew rapidly and reached carrying capacity within five years, while the Sariska population struggled with strikingly slow growth rate. Although past studies have linked anthropogenic disturbance to stress and low reproductive outcome in wild animals, we argue that it is the complexity and quality of the habitat that influence how animals perceive and cope with this disturbance, resulting in chronic stress and thereby poor reproduction. We quantified fecal glucocorticoid metabolite (FGM), prey density, terrain complexity, cover, water availability and anthropogenic disturbances at both study sites. As predicted, tigers in the population with low reproduction rate (Sariska) had higher FGM concentrations than in the population with high reproduction rate (Panna). We conclude that secure habitat conditions supported by terrain complexity, optimal prey, water availability and low anthropogenic disturbance determine levels of chronic stress, breeding success and population growth of tigers. Therefore, large carnivore reintroductions should consider physiological stress and suitable habitats at fine scale, for realistic population growth projections and adaptive management strategies.
CORRESPONDING AUTHOR:
Krishnamurthy Ramesh   
Wildlife Institute of India, Wildlife Institute of India, Post Box #18, Chandrabani, 248001 Dehradun, India
eISSN:1825-5272
ISSN:0394-1914