FERAL: Foundation for Ecological Research, Advocacy and Learning

Foundation for Ecological Research, Advocacy and Learning

Identifying critical areas for a landscape - level wildlife corridor in the southern Western Ghats

TitleIdentifying critical areas for a landscape - level wildlife corridor in the southern Western Ghats
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsVaidyanathan, S, Ram, S, Gangadharan, A
Abstract

Among the major challenges inherent in the conservation of large mammals is the necessity to maintain connectivity between disjunct populations, which can buffer them from the negative effects of demographic stochasticity and inbreeding. In the Periyar – Agastyamalai landscape of the southern Western Ghats, tiger (Panthera tigris) and elephant (Elephas maximus) populations were historically connected through a contiguous stretch of prime habitat. However, Periyar and Agastyamalai are now separated by the Shencottah Gap: a complex mix of land use types, human settlements and linear barriers. Restoration of landscape-level connectivity is a conservation necessity; consequently, there has been increasing interest over the past few years in corridor restoration in this landscape.

Despite recognition of the importance of connectivity, however, actual conservation planning and implementation of corridors has been hampered by the lack of fundamental scientific information critical to corridor design. The primary goal of this study was to provide a quantitative, scientific basis for connectivity restoration by empirically identifying corridors for seven focal large mammal species. We collected data on animal distribution and occurrence, related these to a wide range of habitat variables, and modelled potential corridors across the Shencottah Gap at a coarse scale. We also collected a wide range of socio-economic data to characterize settlements in this area, thus developing a profile of local communities and their relationship with wild habitat.

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