Abundance of wild ungulates along an altitude gradient and impact of livestock and dogs in Sikkim, India
National Centre For Biological Sciences And Centre For Wildlife Studies, Bangalore
The presence of livestock and feral dogs are perceived as a major threat to wild animals in the Himalaya. We investigated the altitudinal variation in the seasonal abundances of three mountain ungulates in a protected area in the Himalaya and how these are impacted by domestic yak and feral dogs.
We repeatedly sampled 18 trails between 3000 m and 4200 m altitude to estimate dung encounter rates and photo-capture rates as indicators of abundance. The trails were sampled in winter when temperature went down to – 15ºC and post winter when temperature went up to 19ºC.
Musk deer was more abundant in the higher altitudes while goral was more abundant in the lower altitudes; serow equally abundant in higher and lower altitudes. Yaks and dogs were mostly restricted to lower altitudes, where their abundance was negatively correlated with the abundance of wild ungulates.
The study concludes that regulating the activity of livestock may be of particular importance in areas expected to exhibit reduced forage availability due to high livestock grazing pressure and of dogs where they may be expected to act as predators to the wild ungulates.