Estimating distribution pattern and abundance of mesopredatrors in a high tiger density area, Corbett National Park (CNP) during 2010-11
Anindita Bidisha Chatterjee
Wildlife Institute Of India
Mesopredators are less glorified in spite of playing vital roles in maintaining the structure of the forest ecosystem owing to their small body sizes and position in food chain. They exhibit higher diversity and plasticity in behaviour and ecology than larger carnivores. Our study sheds light on the scantily known status estimate of these mesopredators in the Terai-Arc Landscape and is significant in the light of trophic cascades in carnivore communities.
We used camera trap based photocapture method in c.a. CNP 550 sq.km (9660 trap nights). Photographs of Small Indian Civet, Common Palm Civet, Leopard Cat, Jungle Cat and Golden Jackal were used to assess the distribution pattern and abundance. We carried out vegetation sampling in an area of 400 metre radius around each camera trap location and collected information about the productivity (NDVI), slope, elevation and ruggedness (DEM) of the area.
Civet spp. tend to avoid highly rugged areas. Leopard cat showed no sign of preference for any kind of habitat. Jungle cat was observed more in open areas and scrublands avoiding high ruggedness and Lantana assemblage. Golden Jackal was found to be mostly habitat generalists using highly productive areas bit more. All were tolerant towards human presence (mostly in peripheral areas) and distributed evenly except for Jungle Cat, showing clumped distribution.
We tried to understand the pattern of site usage of mesopredators in CNP and generate a baseline population estimate. Our study proved the elasticity in their choice of habitats, mostly governed by food choice and protection. The study species showed intensive use of areas near human presence and were as abundant as predicted. We suggest a more intensive camera trap design for better abundance estimates by maximizing the detection probability of individuals.