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GENERAL ARTICLE

Tiger Spill Over" hooks up Cauvery Wild Life Sanctuary


A K Singh IFS
There are ample evidences to confirm the emergent opulent spatial distribution and relative abundance4 of Tiger in and around Cauvery Wild Life Sanctuary which is a contiguous zone34 to Kollegal Forest Division, BR Hills and serves as one of the most promising and upcoming bio geographical province replete with encouraging favourable growing stock of forests and supporting populations11 of principal tiger-prey species of wild gaur, sambhar, spotted deer, wild boars, four horned antelope & muntjac etc. Tiger Occupancy Survey Modelling18 in Cauvery Wild Life Sanctuary during 2010 has demonstrated convincing estimates of relative profusion of sufficient population of ungulates10 & herbivores required to shore up long term persistence43 of Tiger in such adjoining protected areas of Kollegal Chamrajnagar in Karnataka which too needs to be tagged as one of the Tiger Reserves in the offing.
Keywords : Prey Density, Ungulates, Natural Resources, Biodiversity, Occupancy Modelling, Herbivores, Spill Over, Meta-population, Potential tiger habitat, Detection of Heterogeneity, Animal Abundance, Ecological Carrying Capacity.

Indias enormous rich natural resources which the world has ever targeted since ages are still serving as potential source of wild life habitat for growing population1 of Tigers. Once 40,000 tigers in India have of late dwindled down to almost 2000 is the story of inordinate liberty of exploitation of our prodigious and tremendous natural resources of large landscape which ought to have emerged by now as feasible nurturing grounds for vast populations of tigers. Massive array of Wild Life Sanctuaries in an independent nation means a gargantuan scope of not only understanding tiger ecology49 both in and around protected areas encompassing buffer zone, an icon of wealth of nations but also dwells upon the idea of its more frequented and accustomed ecosystem of tigers relative abundance and spatial distribution20 in its territorial jurisdiction which quite often transgress across fringes of forests and in the midst of common lands too. Scientific determination of occupancy, population limits, habitat condition & connectivity guide us in conservation planning & ensure survival of

Image 1. Tiger sighted in Changadi Beat near Doddsonegudda in Cowdahalli Wild Life Range in February 2011 of Cauvery WLS.

free ranging tigers in a broader landscape 3 as shown in Image 1. Within each landscape unit there exists a potential to manage some of the tiger populations as meta-population11 having contiguous tiger habitat that holds one to many breeding source populations. Occupancy of a forest patch by tigers is negatively correlated9 with human & livestock disturbances but is regarded as positively

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correlated with abundant prey availability, dense forest patch and core sizes. In order to sustain a high density source population on a longer term basis it is not only essential to determine critically endangered potential landscape50 in and around the existing Tiger Reserve or an adjoining sanctuary but also underlines the need to set aside inviolate areas devoid of human disturbance. Tiger Spill Over Pops Up: BR Hills source populations deemed to have of late reached at the critical threshold limit of carrying capacity of source population35 of tigers is reckoned to have spilling over effect towards connecting contiguous bio-geographic
Image 2. Caterpillar shape Cauvery Wild Life Sanctuary stretching almost 100 Km along the Cauvery River bordering Tamilnadu. www.earthgoogle.com

Though the forest & wild life landscape towards north are upcoming nurturing breeding grounds9 which need protection and prey restoration to bolster tiger spill out in the offing. Tigers have a fair chance

of long term persistence in such potential landscape complex provided such overflowing populations from BR Hills that currently exist as Tiger Reserve continue to exchange individuals through contiguous forest corridors. Such
Image 3. Anogeissus-Choloroxylon-AlbiziaHardwicka-Tectona-Terminalia landscape of Ponachi in Sanctuary.

province of Cauvery Wild Life Sanctuary as shown in Image 2 and Kollegal Territorial Forest areas. These source population ought to have inter relationship and inter connectivity through multiple use forests via buffers and corridors22 where human land uses conducive to maintaining low density tiger occupancy are permitted and fostered by providing appropriate incentives to local communities and outsource intervention. Mukruti, Bandipur, BR Hills, Kollegal & MM Hills region of the landscape covers adjacent and immediate forest area of 39,000 Km2 which has the highest potential9 for long term tiger conservation shown Figure 1

movement of meta population11 pattern can be ensured by enhancing the tiger friendliness of intervening matrix through enhanced prey base in and outside of the nearby protected areas thereby reducing

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anthropogenic disturbances. These attribute needs to be fostered by forest & prey base contiguity in more promising contiguous sanctuary enhancing the chances of breeding tigers pour out. Potential Prey Base: Tigers principal prey species such as wild gaur, sambhar, spotted deer, wild pig, four horned antelope and muntjac contribute to more than 95% of diet of a tiger. 20% of mammals of India face extinction and have already disappeared from over 90% of their historic range 11. Tigers are today mainly restricted to a few well protected forests areas that have enough prey food base to support them. Rapid decline of wild tiger populations are primarily a consequence of prey depletion driven by adverse human impact7. Cauvery Wild Life Sanctuary is a protected area with intense biotic and anthropogenic pressure from 14 villages inside and 29 shepherds livestock pens in the surroundings51. Independent surveys have shown presence of tigers in and around the protected area which occur in very low density53. Cauvery Wild Life Sanctuary is part of Tiger Conservation Landscape or TCL 67 identified by tiger veterans worldwide and is considered as a highly potential spill over zone for the tigers persistence18. Prospective Prey & Predator Density: Mosaic of dry deciduous Anogeissus-Choloroxylon-Albizia type, Anogeissus-Pterocarpus-Terminalia Type and Anogeissus-Tectona-Terminalia Type of forest vegetation Image 3 and its habitat as found in Cauvery Wild Life Sanctuary is akin to dry deciduous climax vegetation found in higher tiger density sites like BR Hills Tiger Reserve, Bandipur NP and Nagarhole NP which make this a potential habitat for ungulate prey base species24. With stringent protection and sustainable biodiversity conservation endeavours there are ample chances of degraded forests maturing towards climax forests making these areas more suitable and appropriate for prey & predator density32. Cell Occupancy Modelling for Ungulates: Small Cell Occupancy Modelling18 Image 4 helps to record sign detection for multiple species of ungulates of their pellets, tracks, dungs, sightings involving animal sign surveys using spatial replication and non random selection which derive unbiased metrics of animal abundance and more precisely their absence particularly in respect of tiger prey ecology. A grid is super imposed over the entire area of Cauvery Wild Life Sanctuary

Image 4. Small cell occupancy survey grid layout superimposed over entire area of Cauvery Wild Life Sanctuary, Kollegal Chamrajangar

Image 5. Small cell of occupancy survey design showing grid of 3.25 Km2 area with demarcation of 4.8 Km long route.

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that is 527 Km2 with each cell having an area of 3.25 km2 . The size of the cell52 was taken based on the expected seasonal home range and daily routine movement rates of the ungulates in order to keep the data within the limits of each cell. Equidistant nine vantage points as shown in Image 5 were marked for observation in each grid using GIS which generated 600 m long routes between each two points where total distance of all the nine points amounts to a total of 4.8 Km of sampling effort per cell. Signs of ungulate tracks and dungs were recorded once in each 100 m segment along this route within a cell. Signs of human activities such as presence of cattle, livestock grazing, cut stems, cut bamboos, lopped up woods, tree notches cut for hunting birds, reptiles using tree holes, fire occurrence, poaching marks, weed infestations, human trails, under storey cover, shrubs & bushes, ground cover, leaf litter, soil composition and grass cover were observed on the grid route for each 100 m segment. Detection of Heterogeneity a Function of Animal Abundance: Species are never falsely detected at a site when absent, no changes detected during occupancy survey, detection at one site is independent of detection at other sites and detection probability is a function of some covariates which can be measured are standard protocols made by Tiger Occupancy Modelling of Royale & Nichols 2003. This new model supported by Mackenzie 2002 & Hines 2010 assumes heterogeneity in detection probability as a function of animal abundance which is non existent across cells and therefore implicitly assumes that animal abundance is constant across sites. When the species home range size and daily movement rates are smaller than the size of each grid

Image 7. Bar Graph: Average ungulate density per Km2 in Bandipur, Ranthambor and Melghat TR

Image 8. Bar Graph: Density of Ungulate population with special reference to Four Horned Antelope per Km2 in Gir, Melghat, Tadoba, Pench, Bandipura, Kanha and Panna Tiger Reserves.

Image 6. Four horned antelope density variation with effect of distance to village & livestock pens weighted by human/cattle population.

as stipulated57 here, it is reasonable to derive animal densities using cell specific abundance values which can be used to monitor ungulate population trends over time.

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Imminent Ungulate Population Density: Potential to harbour rare species in Cauvery Sanctuary: 5 animals/Km2 is average ungulate density summed over all the species in Cauvery Wild Life Sanctuary which is as of now well below potential ecological carrying capacity of the protected area. Therefore estimated total number of ungulates in 527 Km 2 area of sanctuary is about 2579. In Bandipur Tiger Reserve it is 35/Km2, Ranathambore Tiger Reserve 61/ Km2, Melghat Tiger Reserve 5.3/Km2 as shown in Image 7 which means Cauvery Wild Life Sanctuary has a potential to sustain carrying capacity of more than 5 to 10 times higher density of ungulate prey then it currently supports and it could be achieved by appropriate protection and drastic conservation with radical & revolutionary changes in this protected area enduring long term neglect and disregard. Unique riparian habitat important for endemic and highly threatened species of four horned antelope in Cauvery Wild Life Sanctuary as shown in Image 8 is 0.69/Km2 which is surprisingly higher than many other protected areas such as Gir NP 0.42/Km2 , Melghat Tiger Reserve 0.5/Km2 , Tadoba TR 0.5/Km2 , Pench TR 0.7/Km2 , Bandipur NP 1.1/Km2 , Kanha TR 2.1/Km2 and Panna Tiger Reserve 4.03/Km2 . This implies that Cauvery Wild Life Sanctuary is an important site for potential ungulate density of population underlining the need for enhanced efforts of conservation Image 9. Sanctuary harbours the rare, endangered and threatened Grizzly Giant Squirrel, River Otters and six species of Mahaseer Fishes which are under tremendous pressure of anthropogenic causes. Sanctuary a potential harbour to metapopulations of Tiger: Study hints at GIS tool derived abundance of chital, sambhar, wild boar and four horned antelope were all negatively influenced by proximity and size of livestock populations.53 as shown in Image 11. Removal of such cattle pens and human disturbance are required to recover the potential carrying capacity of the sanctuary. Patterns of variation in habitat

Image 10. Bar Graph: Tiger Density per Km 2 in Bandipur, Ranthambor, Panna, Tadoba, Melghat Tiger Reserves respectively.

Image 9. Forested Landscape with ample Ungulates in Cauvery Wild Life Sanctuary is required to be tagged as Tiger Reserve after BR Hills.

occupancy and abundance of wild animals is crucial for implementing scientific management and conservation efforts. Tiger density44 have been shown to be primarily determined by prey densities and typically, the density ratio of tigers to their principal prey is about 1: 500. Therefore there is an ungulate density of 5 animals/Km2 and there are total of about 2579 potential prey animals in the Cauvery Wild Life Sanctuary. The current carrying

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capacity of tigers in Cauvery Wild Life Sanctuary is about 5 tigers with derived density of about 1 tiger/100 Km2 based entirely on wild prey. Colossal undesirable presence of livestock in the fringes of the sanctuary though is good edible biomass yet tiger dont prefer unwanted human disturbance in their territorial jurisdiction46. Potential of Tiger Density: Given current livestock prey in and around protected area, the estimated tiger density is quite inferior in Cauvery Wild Life Sanctuary as compared to Bandipur Tiger Reserve which is 12 per 100 Km 2 , Ranathambor TR 12 per 100 Km 2, Panna TR 7 per 100 Km2 , Tadoba TR 3.27 per 100 Km2 and Melghat TR 6.67 per 100 Km2 as shown in Image 10. Therefore, Cauvery Wild Life Sanctuary has the potential to support higher densities of tiger being the contiguous connecting zone for likelihood of tigers as present in Bandipur and BR Hills Tiger Reserves provided ungulate prey populations should show quick, fast and steady recovery. forests. BR Hills can provide valuable insights into current and potential carrying capacity of tigers in the larger TCL-67 tiger landscape. Recovery of ungulate prey populations with strict protection and other appropriate and radical conservation endeavours thus holds the key for longer term sustenance of viable populations of tigers and their potential prey populations in the sanctuarys landscape both in and outside of the protected areas. Assessment of threats in this Habitat Occupancy Modelling31 survey disclosed that ungulate abundance is most likely to be limited by competition with excessive livestock populations. Given the productive nature of well protected deciduous forests to hold a high number of tigers and prey, the Cauvery Wild Life Sanctuary with its unique position of being proximate to a source population of BR Hills Tiger Reserve provides a strong opportunity to conserve tigers and their prey in this high potential tiger conservation landscape.

Conclusion Cauvery Wild Life Sanctuary is part of the Global Priority Tiger Conservation Landscape TCL 67 and is connected to BR Hills Tiger Reserve through a network of reserve forests and wild life sanctuary53. With likely occurrence of a tiger source population in BR Hills Tiger Reserve reproducing tigers above replacement levels20 .This landscape has good long term potential to support a demographically viable populations of tigers in these reserve Image 11. Tigers dont prefer unwanted human
disturbance in their territorial jurisdiction. Acknowledgements : This article is product of dedication, persistence and skill of team of Mr R Killivalavan and associate guides Dr Ullas Karanth, Dr N Samba Kumar, Dr Ajit Kumar & the team of Forest Dept Ravi Kr, Sharanbasappa in pursuit of Assessing potential tiger habitat in Cauvery Wild Life Sanctuary Karnataka with assistance from Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, National Centre for Biological Sciences Bangalore India. But for invaluable help and assistance, long drawn devotion and commitment from Sh B K Singh IFS Chief Wild Life Warden Govt of Karnataka this piece of write up would not have been a realization.

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A K Singh IFS serves presently in Forest Department of Govt of Karnataka. Cauvery Wild Life Sanctuary Kollegal, Karnataka. India 08224-253027, aksinghifs@gmail.com dcfcauverywl@gmail.com