, Volume 57, Issue 1, pp 89-97
Date: 29 Jun 2011

Habitat heterogeneity as the key determinant of the abundance and habitat preference of prey species of tiger in the Chitwan National Park, Nepal

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Studies on the relationship between habitat heterogeneity and animal abundance are essential for understanding what determines biodiversity. Transect-based direct observations of eight principal prey species of tiger in the Chitwan National Park (CNP) were used to determine their abundances and habitat preferences. Chital was the most abundant prey species of tiger (Panthera tigris). Each of the prey species had significantly different habitat preferences except sambar deer and chital. Habitat preference was measured using Manly’s preference index, which revealed that short grassland, mixed forest, and riverine forest were the most preferred habitats of the prey species. The results indicate that large species of deer tend to be found in more diverse habitats than small species, except muntjac. The abundance of the principal prey species of tiger was positively correlated with habitat heterogeneity. The habitat, which contributes significantly to the heterogeneity of the landscape, is grassland in large patches of forest. The ongoing increase of forest cover in the CNP has led to a reduction in the area of grassland, which may negatively affect the abundance of the prey species of tiger. Hence, it is suggested that the restoration of landscape heterogeneity is the best way to manage the habitats in the CNP.