~ by Amrita Neelakantan (coordinator NCCI)
Mahi Puri and colleagues have conducted extensive surveys to find out what leopards eat and how might leopard diets change in the future. The study focuses on the important corridor between Kanha and Pench national parks. Leopards live within and outside of forests, with some taking up residence in the agricultural matrix. Wildlife outside the bounds of protected areas interact much more often with humans over a range of human activities – grazing cattle, growing crops and collecting non-timber forest produce to name a few. Understanding how our human lives affect and in turn change the behavior of wild species is important for a future where humans and big cats might continue to live side by side in one of the world’s more populated places that remains vital for global wildlife conservation goals. In addition, the knowledge of benefits provided by carnivore presence can help offset the negative perceptions around these species. Mahi Puri and her team extensively surveyed forest and households across the corridor to make sense of drivers of leopard distribution, conflict, and current patterns of their diet to showcase what might change in the future.
The big takeaway from this paper is that within the surveyed sites leopards predominantly ate wild prey (langur and ungulates) – an important consideration for human-wildlife conflict in the region. Occupancy statistics also highlight that leopards are more likely to be in spots with ample wild-prey confirming that leopards still prefer wild-prey and are not preferentially moving into human dominated areas for non-wild prey (signified by cattle and dog icons in the figures).
~ by Archita Sharma (University of Delhi)
Nested in Satpura-Mikal range lies the Kanha-Pench forest landscape, spanning over an area of 10,000 square kilometers. It connects two well-known tiger reserves: Kanha and Pench. This landscape is a mosaic of dry deciduous forests, rippling grasslands, and tanned scrublands, with almost 400 villages. Although protected reserves play a crucial role in conserving wildlife, many species of wild carnivores also depend on being able to occupy human-dominated spaces. There is little understanding of human-carnivore interactions in such shared spaces.
A new study published in Royal Society Open Science revealed habitat preferences, livestock predation, and conservation requirements for five lesser-known carnivores in the Kanha-Pench forest landscape. The results offer a framework for assessing human-carnivore interactions in other regions as well.
The study focused on four wild canid species - Indian grey wolf, Dhole, Indian jackal, and Indian fox. Striped hyena, which is closely related to wild canids in terms of behavior and ecology, was also included in the assessment. The research team used a unique socio-ecological framework for assessing carnivore occupancy and livestock depredation patterns by combining field data gathered from 1600 kilometers of indirect sign survey (scats and tracks) with 700 interview surveys of local residents. 10,000 square kilometers of the landscape was divided into 128 cells of 52 square kilometers each, and this grid-network was then used for data collection. Data on the distribution of free-ranging dogs in the study area was also included in the assessment.
Photo credits as on photo and Centre for Wildlife Studies (https://cwsindia.org/)
PhD Candidate, National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS)
With 664 million tonnes (Mt) of coal, India was the third largest producer in 2014-15, next to China (3474 Mt) and the USA (924 Mt). The Indian government has announced an ambitious plan to produce 1500 Mt of coal by 2020, at an annual growth rate of almost 20%. In order to meet this target, massive expansion of open cast mines is envisaged. About 80% of India’s coal reserves lie in the central Indian landscape and much of it is under forests. Destruction of forests is inevitable for open-cast mining. Along with deforestation, direct and indirect mining activities change the landscape surrounding the mine. Direct activities include removal of the top soil, followed by excavation of overburden and then coal extraction. Indirect activities include tree felling for constructing roads, houses and other infrastructure, thus increasing the anthropogenic impact on the surrounding landscape.
Under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, whenever forest land is diverted for non-forest use, compensatory afforestation (CA) needs to be carried out on an equal amount of non-forest land, or double the amount of degraded forest land. It is usually recommended that CA should be done at the point closest to where diversion is taking place. Mining companies often reclaim the overburden dumps for afforestation. But can these overburden dumps, after reclamation, support similar species of trees which were found in the forest that was cleared? How different are the physical and chemical properties of the dump soil compared to the soil found in the surrounding areas?
In order to answer these questions, Jitendra Ahirwal and Subodh Kumar Maiti from the Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad evaluated the changes in soil properties due to direct and indirect mining activities around Ananta open cast mine in Odisha. They collected soil samples from 5 different sites in 2008:
Project Spotlight highlights our members' work in Central India.
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