Acta Theriologica

, Volume 57, Issue 1, pp 89–97

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

Original Paper


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.


Ungulates Prey Heterogeneity Habitat selection Abundance Preference Resource selection 


  1. Arsenault R, Owen-Smith N (2002) Facilitation versus competition in grazing herbivore assemblages. Oikos 97:313–318CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baldi A (2008) Habitat heterogeneity overrides the species–area relationship. J Biogeogr 35:675–681CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bhattarai BP (2003) Population status and conservation threats on wild ungulates of Barandabhar Corridor Forest, Chitwan, Nepal. Dissertation, Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, NepalGoogle Scholar
  4. Bowyer RT, Bleich VC (1984) Effects of cattle grazing on selected habitats of Southern mule deer. Calif Fish and game 70:240–247Google Scholar
  5. Buckland ST, Anderson DR, Burnham KP, Laake JL (1993) Distance sampling: estimating abundance of biological populations. Chapman and Hall, LondonGoogle Scholar
  6. Buckland ST, Anderson DR, Burnham KP, Laake JL, Borchers DL, Thomas L (2004) Introduction to distance sampling: estimating abundance of biological populations. Oxford University Press, Oxford, p 432Google Scholar
  7. Burnham KP, Anderson DR, Laake JL (1980) Estimation of density from line transect sampling of biological populations. Wildlife Monogr 72:7–201Google Scholar
  8. Cromsigt JPGM, Olff H (2008) Dynamics of grazing lawn formation: an experimental test of the role of scale-dependent processes. Oikos 117:1444–1452CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dexter N (1998) The influence of pasture distribution and temperature on habitat selection by feral pigs in a semi-arid environment. Wildlife Res 25:547–559CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dhungel SK, O'Gara BW (1991) Ecology of the hog deer in Royal Chitwan National Park, Nepal. Wildlife Monogr 119:1–40Google Scholar
  11. Dinerstein E (1980) An ecological survey of the Royal Karnali-Bardia Wildlife Reserve, Nepal. Part III: ungulate populations. Biol Conserv 18:5–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dinerstein E, Wikramanayake ED (1993) Beyond “hotspots”: how to prioritize investments to conserve biodiversity in the Indo-Pacific region. Conserv Biol 7:53–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Du Toit JT, Owen-Smith N (1989) Body size, population metabolism, and habitat specialization among large African herbivores. Am Nat 133:736–740CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. ESRI (2004) Arcmap 9.0. ESRI, RedlandsGoogle Scholar
  15. Gordon IJ, Illius AW (1996) The nutritional ecology of African ruminants: a reinterpretation. J Anim Ecol 65:18–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gurd DB (2006) Variation in species losses from islands: artifacts, extirpation rates, or pre-fragmentation diversity? Ecol Appl 16:176–185PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gurung KK (1983) Heart of the jungle-the wildlife of Chitwan, Nepal. Andre Deutsch, UKGoogle Scholar
  18. Hansen AJ, DeFries R (2007) Ecological mechanisms linking protected areas to surrounding lands. Ecol Appl 17:974–988PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hobbs NT, Bowden DC (1982) Confidence intervals on food preference indices. J Wildlife Manag 46:505–507CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Karanth KU, Sunquist ME (1992) Population structure, density and biomass of large herbivores in the tropical forests of Nagarahole, India. J Trop Ecol 8:21–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Karanth KU, Sunquist ME (1995) Prey selection by tiger, leopard and dhole in tropical forests. J Anim Ecol 64:439–450CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kroger R, Rogers KH (2005) Roan (Hippotragus equinus) population decline in Kruger National Park, South Africa: influence of a wetland boundary. Eur J Wildl Res 51:25–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lehmkuhl JF (1994) A classification of subtropical riverine grassland and forest in Chitwan National Park, Nepal. Vegetatio 111:29–43Google Scholar
  24. Malan JW, van Wyk AE (1993) Bark structure and preferential bark utilisation by the African Elephant. IAWA J 14:173–185Google Scholar
  25. Manly BFJ, McDonald LL, Thomas DL, McDonald TL, Erickson WP (2002) Resource selection by animals. Kluwer Academic, DordrechtGoogle Scholar
  26. Mishra HR (1982) The ecology and behaviour of chital (Axis axis) in the Royal Chitwan National Park, Nepal. Dissertation, University of Edinburgh, UKGoogle Scholar
  27. Moe SR, Wegge P (1994) Spacing behavior and seasonal habitat preferences of Axis deer in Royal Bardia National Park, Nepal. Can J Zool 72:1735–1744CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Motta R (1996) Impact of wild ungulates on forest regeneration and tree composition of mountain forests in the Western Italian Alps. For Ecol Manag 88:93–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Petrides GA (1975) Principal food versus preferred foods and their relations to stucking rate and range condition. Biol Conserv 7:161–169CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Raman TRS (1997) Factors influencing seasonal and monthly changes in the group size of chital or axis deer in southern India. J Biosci 22:203–218CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Redfern JV, Ryan SJ, Getz WM (2006) Defining herbivore assemblages in the Kruger National Park: a correlative coherence approach. Oecologia 146:632–640PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Schaller GB (1967) The deer and the tiger. The University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  33. Seidensticker J (1976) Ungulate populations in Chitwan Valley, Nepal. Biol Conserv 10:183–210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Smith JLD, Wemmer C, Mishra HR (1987) A tiger geographic information system: the first step in global conservation strategy. In: Tilson RL, Seal US (eds) Tigers of the world: the biology, biopolitics, management and conservation of an endangered species. Noyes, Park Ride, pp 464–474Google Scholar
  35. Smith JLD, Ahearn SC, McDougal C (1998) Landscape analysis of tiger distribution and habitat quality in Nepal. Conserv Biol 12:1338–1346CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Soule ME, Terborgh J (1999) Conserving nature at regional and continental scales: a scientific program for North America. Bioscience 49:809–817CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Stoen OG, Wegge P (1996) Prey selection and prey removal by tiger (Panthera tigris) during the dry season in lowland Nepal. Mammalia 60:363–373Google Scholar
  38. Thomas L, Laake JL, Rexstad E, Strindberg S, Marques FFC, Buckland ST, Borchers DL, Anderson DR, Burnham KP, Burt ML, Hedley SL, Pollard JH, Bishop JRB, Marques TA (2009) Distance 6.0. Release 2. Research Unit for Wildlife Population Assessment, University of St. Andrews, UK.
  39. Tsaparis D, Katsanevakis S, Stamouli C, Legakis A (2008) Estimation of roe deer Capreolus capreolus and mouflon Ovis aries densities, abundance and habitat use in a mountainous Mediterranean area. Acta Theriol 53:87–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Verweij RJT, Verrelst J, Loth PE, Heitkonig IMA, Brunsting AMH (2006) Grasslands contribute to the subsistence of mesoherbivores on dystrophic savannas. Oikos 114:108–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Vidus-Rosin A, Meriggi A, Cardarelli E, Serrano-Perez S, Mariani MC, Corradelli C, Barba A (2011) Habitat overlap between sympatric European hares (Lepus europaeus) and Eastern cottontails (Sylvilagus floridanus) in northern Italy. Acta Theriol 56:53–61. doi:10.1007/s13364-010-0005-x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Wang GM, Hobbs NT, Boone RB, Illius AW, Gordon IJ, Gross JE, Hamlin KL (2006) Spatial and temporal variability modify density dependence in populations of large herbivores. Ecology 87:95–102PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Wegge P, Odden M, Pokharel CP, Storaas T (2009) The use of camera traps for estimating tiger and leopard populations in the high altitude mountains of Bhutan. Biol Conserv 142:606–613CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Zar JH (1984) Biostatistical analysis. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle RiverGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences, Białowieża, Poland 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biodiversity ResearchGlobal Change Research Centre AS CRBrnoCzech Republic
  2. 2.Faculty of ScienceUniversity of South BohemiaČeské BudějoviceCzech Republic
  3. 3.Faculty of Natural SciencesCharles UniversityPragueCzech Republic

Personalised recommendations