Tiger presence in a hitherto unsurveyed jungle of India–the Sathyamangalam forests
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- Anuradha Reddy, P., Kumaraguru, A., Bhagavatula, J. et al. Conserv Genet (2012) 13: 779. doi:10.1007/s10592-012-0326-1
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Tiger, being a solitary and territorial animal, often tends to move out of protected areas into the surrounding forests. This is especially true in the case of sub-adult animals leading to escalating conflicts and deaths in the surrounding human-dominated landscapes. Unless adequately protected against various human activities, such corridors and surrounding forests will soon disappear, trapping the animals within protected areas with resultant local extinctions. In this paper we ascertain tiger presence, occupancy and numbers in one such partially protected area, the Sathyamangalam forest, located close to better known tiger reserves in India, through non-invasive faecal DNA analysis. Here we highlight the potential of Sathyamangalam as a tiger habitat. Tiger positive faecal samples were considered as evidence to establish occupancy in two different parts of Sathyamangalam, reserve forest and wildlife sanctuary. We collected 103 faecal samples out of which 69 were tiger positive. Species occupancy (psi), was 0.672 (±0.197) with a detection probability of 0.2 (±0.06) in the wildlife sanctuary area; while psi was 0.72 (±0.2) with detection probability of 0.212 (±0.6) in the reserve forest. Further, number of males and females, as determined in our study, was close to the ideal sex ratio in a healthy forest with good prey abundance. This study also highlights the presence of more females in the reserve forest (n = 10) than the wildlife sanctuary (n = 3) possibly indicating lesser disturbance and more prey availability. We recommend that the reserve forest to the north of Sathyamangalam wildlife sanctuary be declared as a tiger reserve. The wildlife sanctuary could serve as a buffer zone between this reserve and Sathyamangalam town which lies to the south of the forest. Proper protection of Sathyamangalam will go a long way in saving the entire landscape and tigers of the Western Ghats of India.